dad from day one: Jack’s First Time to Church

Week 7.

Something I had always been acutely aware of is that when two people have a baby, there’s a good solid 6 weeks that go by where you stop seeing them in public.  But shortly after that, the couple begins to dare to make random public appearances.  Like last week, we attempted to take Jack with us to buy groceries. Really, there’s no need for me to paint the details of that story; if you can imagine it, that’s what happened.  Therefore, today I went alone to buy groceries.  It took just as long being that I’m a guy and we, the male species, don’t have instincts to tell us things like where to find vanilla extract or even at our own house where the cutting boards go in the kitchen.

But with me still not having a job yet and with the cold winter weather, the three of us have spent a lot of time indoors.  Now I know what it’s like to be a 29 year-old retired millionaire who gets to stay at home all day in his pajamas and eat cereal for lunch.  Minus the million dollars and plus the need to actually make a living.  So after a month of constantly looking online for jobs and applying, and taking care of Jack, and watching random documentaries instantly on Netflix through the Wii, we decided we were brave enough to take Jack to church for the first time; out of the womb.

Of course, despite giving ourselves plenty of time to get there early, Jack decided he wanted one last snack of milk right as we were heading out the door.  Then we had to change his diaper.  So we arrived 10 minutes late and the only place left to sit was up in the balcony.  This turned out to be a pretty good location though; since we were right next to the door for the moment he would inevitably start crying.  He lasted 35 minutes before we had to dart for the door with him.  We were impressed.

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Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell): 2004 Honda Element

If I was an action figure, what would my accessories be?

My wife always goes to sleep before me.  Sometimes, when she’s lucky, I sing her a lullaby to help her transition into dream mode, to coax her into visions of happy clouds and riding unicorns.  Of course, I only serenade her with original songs that I sing as I compose them, on the spot.  Last week, with Avatar fresh on my mind, I sang to her in my finest Styx performing Mr. Roboto voice:

“Nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life

So put on your purple jump suit and watch a pterodactyl fly by

Because nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life”

Pause.

Then she asked, “How can I prepare for the unicorn ride when you just said nothing could ever prepare me?”

She made a good point.  The only disadvantage of having the ability to make up and sing Grammy award winning songs on the spot, is that sometimes I forget the lyrics I’ve already sang earlier in the same song.

Ironically, I was the one who wasn’t prepared.  As for the rest of the time, in everyday life, I am prepared.  Because from 1st grade to 5th grade, I was in Cub Scouts and one of our main mottos was Be Prepared”.  Evidently, that has become a law of life for me.

Take my car, for example:

Honda Elements have been compared to a lot of things: a boot, a shoe, a toaster, a box.  And I’m okay with that, because after 4 ½ years of owning one, I am still in love.  And when the day comes to get a new vehicle, my plan is to simply buy another Honda Element.

I have transformed my already versatile duckbill-platypus-like SUV into the vehicular equivalent of a Swiss army knife.  It’s time to take a tour of my Honda Element and see what I keep on hand at all times, just in case I need it…

Typically I keep one backseat always folded up so I can have my mountain bike with me.  It stays secured between the wall and other seat.  The blue t-shirt helps prevent scuff marks on my seat from the bike and doubles as an emergency back-up shirt.

The way I got that shirt was way back in the summer of 1998 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.  One of the old t-shirts I had packed for the trip was one that I got from a church youth conference from the summer of 1993.  It was a white t-shirt with the phrase “JESUS IS FOR NOW” on it.  And that’s all it said.  (In Junior High, my classmate Scott Rothell joked with me: “Jesus is for now; Satan is for later”.  He was a funny guy.)

So when I was in Ecuador, a guy my age (17 at the time) saw me wearing the “Jesus is for now” t-shirt and said he liked it so much that he wanted it.  Because I have developed a friendship with him that week doing skits in city squares and painting schools, I negotiated a t-shirt trade.

He let me look through the old t-shirts he brought along, and the blue one was the one I chose: “Con Amor de Tennessee a Temuco, Chile” (With love from Tennessee to Temuco, Chile”.  Which was the official t-shirt my friend got from a previous mission trip.  It remains a comfortable t-shirt after the 12 years of me owning it.

Behind my passenger seats is where I keep my helmet.  In the cubbies on the sides, I have an old atlas I stole from work, a bandana (for days I don’t feel like wearing a hat but want to cover my head- works well in sweaty or rainy situations).

This is also where I keep my bike maintenance tools and restaurant coupons (which I’ve made several copies of on a color copier so I can reuse them).  As well as flyers for selling my house.  And an atlas in case my GPS stops working.  And windshield defroster spray.  Plus a back-up t-shirt just in case…

In the backseat that is not folded up I keep a black fedora.  Because this kind of hat will instantly make me look classier if need be, even if I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  Plus an old baseball cap I got in 11th grade (1997), as well as a new stylish hat that my mother-in-law mailed me on my birthday.  The right hat for the right situation is key to being a model citizen.

Underneath the seat I keep my Birkenstocks (Christmas present from my parents in 1999).  They make the perfect back-up shoes in case I’m wearing nice shoes and it starts to rain.  In the rear side doors, I keep two books at all times.  Just in case I need to kill some time.  One is about speed reading, the other is about “reading people”.

In between the two front seats, I keep some musk incense I bought at an Indian grocery store, to help keeping my Element smelling like a forest.  I received the toothpaste and toothbrush from my most recent dentist visit- always good to keep around.  And of course it is vital to always have nail clippers handy.

The plastic cup remains empty.  Maybe I’ll end up in a place where there’s water but nothing to put it in.  Then the cup saves the day.

I put Velcro on the back of my iPod (with an FM radio receiver so I can listen to it through my stereo speakers) and my steering wheel so it’s always right in front of me.

In the hidden cubby next to my steering wheel, I keep a few spare wedding rings (made out of hemp) just in case I ever forget to wear my actual one.  Next to some papaya supplements to aid indigestion (for my pregnant wife).

Up in the front passenger dashboard caddy, I keep sugar-free gum, business cards (mainly so I can write my website on them to give to people I meet who after talking to me, are curious about my website).  And a bendable Pink Panther- just because he is awesome.  He is my animal cartoon role model.

There are also some pictures from my wife and I from exactly a year ago when we met her aunt in Chattanooga.  The felt letters say “amp” but they used to say “camp”.  But the “c” fell off and I never found it.  I just wanted to enhance the “camp” theme of my car.

Lastly, in the passenger seat of my Element, I keep my Gap one-strap bookbag.  Inside are my laptop, earphones, camera, Bible, and whatever the main current book is that I’m reading at the time.  I usually bring the bookbag with me when I take my mountain bike for a ride so I can be prepared to entertain myself if I need a break.

With the exception of my TV and my Wii and guitar and my clothes which are in the house, the things I keep in my Element are my earthly possessions.  My Element is like an overnight bag.  Like a turtle’s shell.  My action figure’s accessories.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on Honda Elements, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

After These Messages… We’ll Be Riiiiight Back!

I am a marketing department’s worst nightmare.  Because while I completely appreciate good commercials, they never influence me to buy the product.  Kudos to McDonald’s for their retro “Give Me Back My Filet-O-Fish” commercial, equipped with a Ford Ranchero and a catchy 8-bit sounding song via text message.  And those guys in the Sonic commercials, what’s not to love about “get those taste buds going, danga-langa-langa-langa-langa… Mornin’ Gents!” or “YOU’RE A CHEAP DATE!”

Yet I never buy from or eat at McDonald’s or Sonic.  I respect their commercials, but they’re just entertainment.  That’s all.  Completely ineffective as far as getting me to actually spend money.

Which causes me to think about this question:  When is the last time I bought a product or service based on an advertisement, of any kind?  Through a TV commercial, radio commercial, or magazine ad.  Any sort of marketing ad.

And I’m not counting the times I was already searching for a general product and came across a website.  That doesn’t count. 

I’m talking about this situation:  I never heard of the product.  I see an advertisement.  I buy it.

The last purchase I made was a food purchase.  I bought some cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes.  Because my wife heard about how awesome they are from some people at work.  So I bought the cupcakes through word-of-mouth.

Other than other mundane purchases like groceries and gas, the only other item I purchased in the last few weeks was a Rubik’s Cube, which I knew of through years of word-of-mouth.   

Three years ago I bought an i-pod, but not because of the commercials.  Because my friends had them.  Then I bought mine from amazon.com.

Same thing with my GPS. 

Same thing with choosing Verizon Wireless as my cell phone company.

And my subscription to Details magazine. 

And going through wordpress.com to get my own website.

And my town house.  My wife’s friend already lived in that neighborhood.

And my Wii.  I was sold on it well over a year before it even came out.

Even when I see a commercial for a movie, I won’t go see it or rent it or even watch it at all until I’ve talked to someone who’s seen it or until I’ve read a promising online review.  Word-of-mouth.

As for buying music, I may buy a new CD if I hear it playing on the radio or at Borders, but that’s not advertising, that’s exposure. 

So there’s the pattern.  I only buy things based on the recommendation of a person I trust.  And of course they’re never the ones actually selling me the product.

Okay, I can finally remember a time when I bought a product based on a commercial or ad.  It was high school.  My freshman year: 1995.  I bought a Trix t-shirt because I looked through a t-shirt magazine my friend gave me.

Oh wait, nevermind.  I only got the magazine because a friend gave it to me and said that I would like it.

So the last time I bought a product directly because of an advertisement was probably back in the early ‘90’s when I would buy Ninja Turtle action figures.  Toys.  When I was a kid. 

As an adult, I guess I kinda like the idea of outsmarting the advertising departments of companies.

Bottom line:  If a product or service is worth purchasing, word will get around and eventually get to me.  That’s the only advertising that honestly matters to me.

The Invisible Touch, Yeah (The 2nd Installment)

 

It takes seeing bad acting to know what good acting is.  Bad acting isn’t simply defined by an actor who conveys no emotion (Ben Stein).  But there is a thin invisible line between a person who is a good actor (Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti) and a person who simply plays the same character in every movie (Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Arnold Schwarzenegger).  Of course there are also the in-betweens (Adam Sandler, Ashton Kutcher, Robin Williams) that only seem to play the same character in all their comedies but in dramas actually become a different person.


But ultimately for an actor who has appeared in a string of successful/popular movies, the question of how good of an actor is, is irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter.  Because there is some unseen force that causes people to keep watching that actor’s movies.  It’s not simply professional acting skills that audiences follow, it’s that invaluable quality of “I like this person”.

Friendships don’t grow just because of common interests.  Now that I think about it, I’ve never made a conscience decision to be a person’s friend.  It just happens.  I never have to say anything like, “You’re cool.  Let’s officially become friends.”


It starts with a few joking insults through text messages, leads to several Sunday afternoon Mario Kart Wii tournaments, and before I know it I plan a whole Saturday around rowing down the Harpeth River in a canoe with him, trying to forget about the movie Deliverance as we paddle our way through the quiet waters.


The “I like this person” quality transcends to romance as well.  There is something extremely ironic about “Singles” events and groups.  For my first year living in Nashville I attended the Singles Sunday School class at my church (around 80 in attendance) plus I went to Kairos (another Singles event every Tuesday night with an average of 1200 people).  It seems with all those single-and-looking people in the same place with the same wishful thinking, it would be easy for people to match up.  But that’s not where I met my wife.  (A mutual friend unintentionally set us up.)

 

And when she and I started dating, I knew right away she was the one.  Aside from all the obvious reasons I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, it was those subconscious connections we had that caused both of us to know right away that the search was over.  The greatest occurrence of “I like this person” that I have ever known.

 


“We are all a little weird, and life is a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”  -Chinese fortune cookie

 

The Invisible Touch, Yeah


The 1st Installment
The 2nd Installment
The 3rd Installment


 

fortune cookie