Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Don’t Miss Feeling Pressured to Drive to Work in the Snow and Ice

The picture collage you see here is one that I felt compelled to make nearly three years ago. My family had already been snowed in two days, and it was soon to be the third.

Despite living just a mile from the main road, my actual home was located down a slope in the dead end of the neighborhood: the cul-de-sac.

It was obvious to me that if I simply backed out of my garage, my vehicle would get stuck in the snow and ice, as my vehicle was not a 4×4 and therefore couldn’t make it out.

Still, I went through the motions of proving how dedicated I was to coming to work:

I started up my car, backed out of the garage, tried to make it up the hill, slid down the hill backwards, then quickly got stuck trying to simply make it out of my own cul-de-sac. And now, my already old and worn-out vehicle would have to remain out in harsh weather, which only increased the chances of another vehicle accidentally sliding into it, or the battery dying from the freezing temperatures.

To further cover my bases, I took a photo of my stuck vehicle, as well as one of my shoe; as I was standing on my street, which had an inch-thick sheet of ice under the snow. I also did my best to show the angle of the slope on my street where my vehicle got stuck.

Minutes later, I had put together the photo collage and emailed it to all interested parties, to provide community-wide evidence that I was not simply unmotivated to leave my family and the snow.

I had already been working for the company for over 7 years at this point and I was a supervisor for most of that time; yet I felt that providing picture proof was a nearly necessary move. Otherwise, people who lived only a few miles from the office could try to say, “Well I made it into today… are you just afraid to drive in the snow and ice?”

The least of my worries was that I was having to accept the fact I was using vacation days to be stuck at stay home; even though I wanted to be at work. This was problematic in that every summer, our family always spends a week out in California to visit my wife’s side of the family: I was cutting in to my reserve of days for that trip.

I imagine that feeling pressured to drive to work under dangerous weather conditions is a normal part of American culture, especially in the South; where we are understandably not equipped with the snow plows our towns need when it snows sporadically during the winter.

But you know what? I am now a stay-at-home dad who works from home now. Not my problem anymore.

The only one pressuring me to leave the house is my 7 year-old son who is eager to play in the snow. I think I can handle that.

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My “Uncle Nick Groundhog Day Special” Accurately Predicted the Groundhog Wouldn’t See His Shadow this Year

My “Uncle Nick Groundhog Day Special” Accurately Predicted the Groundhog Wouldn’t See His Shadow this Year

Sure, I know. There was a 50% chance I’d guess it right.

But for what it’s worth, the most recent webisode of my original series, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, takes place on the morning of Groundhog Day and shows that there will indeed be a shorter winter because the “groundhog” can’t see his shadow.

When you watch the video, notice how the letter that Ralph the Red Panda reads clearly indicates the date: February 2nd, 2016. In other words, the setting is right now; not a generic year.

In reality, the webisode was actually filmed on the morning January 30th, and then released on YouTube on the morning of February 1st.

Clearly, all the content and production of this webisode was filmed before Febrary 2nd.

In this webisode, the “substitute groundhog” explains that while the winter will be short and that spring will be arriving sooner, there will be a “dark cloud” in the Enchanted Forest this year.

A new story arc is presented in which it is told that the animals of the Enchanted Forest will have to band together against the “dark cloud”.

After 20 webisodes of Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, I decided to spice things up by adding the concept of a villain; something that has never really happened up unto this point; unless you count the quickly converted Freddie the Fox in the first 3 webisodes.

As the writer and director, I want to see character development of the animals as they must use teamwork to keep peace in the Enchanted Forest.

I wanted that “dark cloud” to contrast the weather, as to not paint the setting too dim. Therefore, I chose for the “groundhog” to not be able to see his shadow, which makes the “dark cloud” stand out that much more.

Stayed tuned, as the upcoming episodes will feature a fresh and more complex storyline as the “dark cloud” is officially introduced in Webisode 21: Bruno the Blue Jay.

Conversation Topics 101: Crime, Politics, Weather, Sports, Entertainment

What do we talk about by default when we don’t have anything important to say?


Out of a person’s mouth comes what is in their heart. But when a person is not engaging in serious conversation, only making “water cooler conversation”, what comes out of a person’s mouth is what is in their head. And what is in their head tends to come from watching the news. If the local news is any indication of what Americans value, then here are the basic categories of conversations that we evidently can’t go wrong with: crime, politics, weather, sports, and entertainment.

Crime: Growing up, my Mexican grandma would call my mom sporadically to warn her of the newest criminal that escaped the local jail. (Weird that it happened as much as it did.) I don’t know how it really helped, knowing. Criminals will always be among us, whether they’ve committed the crime yet or not. But still, people like to be informed about crime.

Politics: Yes, the wise warn to shy away from politics and religion. But when I already have a good idea of a person’s political stance, and I ask (not try to convert) their take on the most recent political event, which keeps the door open for a healthy and interesting conversation. The word “politics” basically has a negative connotation to it, but it’s still worth knowing what our leaders are doing and deciding for us. Just like the weather, can’t really control it, but we definitely can talk about it.

Weather: Speaking of the weather, this is the classic go-to in a time of conversation crisis. As a kid accompanying my mom every week as she bought groceries (I was very picky about what cereal was purchased in order to get the toy I wanted inside the cereal box), it was always funny to see the teenage “bag boy” struggle for conversation as he pushed the cart out to the 1987 Bronco II. It was inevitable: “Nice weather we’ve been having, huh?”

Entertainment: Loverboy was right in 1981- Everybody’s working for the weekend. And entertainment goes hand in hand with the weekend and free time. From the local July 4th parade to the this weekend’s upcoming music festival, entertainment is an all-inclusive subject.

Sports: My favorite scene of one of my all time favorite movies (Trains, Planes, and Automobiles) is when Steve Martin and John Candy have to sleep in the same small bed in a hotel. They wake up the next morning, all cuddled up. John Candy says, “My hand is between two pillows.” Steve Martin responds, “Those aren’t pillows!…” Immediately the two men jump out of bed, disgusted and embarrassed by their too-close proximity. They start talking about sports to feel manly again. At least in America, sports are important.

Need more to talk about?  Try reading some of my older posts from my monthly archives, found on the right side of the screen.  Or wait long enough, and I may write Conversation Topics 102.

The Mute Button (Laryngitis)

 I have become Larry N. Gitus.

There were certain plot devices that seemed to be especially rampant in sitcoms and movies of the 1980’s.  Like quicksand.  Good thing there was always conveniently a drooping branch or vine hanging off a nearby tree in which the sinking character was could grab onto, often thanks to the assistance of a timely passerby or a heroic Labrador Retriever. 

Another one was amnesia.  Began three minutes into the episode and lasted until three minutes from the end of it, when the character would get hit on the head and instantly remember who they were and gain their normal personality back. 

The third exhausted plot device of the 1980’s that comes to mind is the one I’ve been suffering with for the past two days: laryngitis.  Whenever the weather goes through an extreme change (it’s been cold and rainy for the past two months, then finally, this weekend, Nashville switched gears to a hot and sunny climate again) my body suffers some sort of random condition. 

Like painful sinus pressure in my teeth.  Or sensitive body aches.  Or lack of appetite. 

But this time, I lost my voice.  Yesterday all I could do was whisper.  No vocal tone whatsoever.  As for today, my best moments have been the phantom groups of 15 minutes where I could talk, but sound like Brad Garrett (the Jewish actor who played the Italian character Robert Barone, Raymond’s older brother on Everybody Loves Raymond).  I sound like a victim of scandal being interviewed on 20/20, having my voice disguised with a voice modulator.  But that’s only when I’m lucky.

During my usual bike ride through the park during my lunch break, a guy ahead of me was walking while talking on his Blue Tooth, in the middle of the path.  There was no way to warn him I was coming up behind him.  So I just moved to the edge of one side to stay out of his way.  But I still really scared him as I slowed down to ride past him.  Too bad I didn’t have a bull horn. 

Then I could have scared him even more.

Losing my voice has only happened to me one other time, and that was only for half a day.  I’m hoping to be able to speak by the end of the week.  It’s very frustrating as the event planner of my family (my dad is the mechanic/carpenter, my brother-in-law is the computer whiz) not being able to call everyone to make plans for Memorial Day. 

Text messages and emails are a good thing, but still there’s nothing like being able to use words out loud.

But until I get my voice back, I least I can write.  It would have been a horrible week not to, with the finale of LOST and the premiere of Ali Fedotowsky’s Bachelorette season in the same week.

Like a young child just learning to speak but who is frustrated because they can only get certain phrases out that make sense to other people, so am I.  Not to mention the frustration I constantly try to manage amidst all the well-meaning people around me who think it’s funny that I sound like Donald Duck or a big dumb ape.  

And the irony is, I’d laugh with them all as they tease me.  If only I literally could.