Posts Tagged ‘ The South ’

I Survived A Year Of Being A Vegan, Part 2

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

3 years, 3 months.

Continued from Part 1

Dear Jack,

A few weeks ago, I pitched an idea to an infographics company about creating an infographic regarding the the rise of veganism; specifically explaining how Netflix documentaries have contributed to this movement in America.

My goal was to have something to back up this letter, in advance, for my one year vegan anniversary; which is obviously today. To my surprise, they actually used my idea!

Even better, before I could even type this letter, I found that this “Rise Of Veganism” infograph that I pitched and contributed to, was already showing up on my Facebook feed from other people.

I take that as a major compliment that I could be involved in creating something that people are sharing right now on Facebook and Twitter.

(Good word gets around, before I can even get the chance to spread it myself, in this case.)

So I finally took a minute to actually check out the findings of this infographic.

Son, it turns out, I’m one in a million after all… literally.

There are now about one million vegans in America, or 2.5% of the population. This infographic shows that only 21% of us vegans are male, only 11% of us follow a major religion, only 33% are not political, and only 10% of us are raising our children to be vegan.

Those findings tell me that I’m the minority among the minority: Of that 2.5% of American vegans, I am a non-political, religious male parent who is raising his son as a vegan… or at least mostly vegan.

Clearly, I do not fit the stereotype. I realize now, that makes my veganism stand out even more in the crowd. Oh well, I’ve been living outside the box my whole life; I’m used to it.

Like I’ve been saying this whole time, I have no desire to convert anyone else; nor did anyone pressure me into it a year ago.

Yet, the conversions are still happening. That’s obvious, considering that the number of vegans in America has more than doubled in the past 3 years. There’s something that’s contagious about the “vegan gospel” and, for lack of a better phrase, the alternative lifestyle that accompanies it.

It has nothing to do with social pressure. In fact, it’s the opposite of social pressure. In my opinion, being a vegan is one of the most outright rebellious things a person can do in our society.

Especially if you’re a guy, who is supposed to like meat and potatoes. (Or specifically in my case, as a Southerner, of Italian and Mexican heritage… then it would be fried chicken, pepperoni, and queso.)

Your daddy is a non-politcal, religious vegan. Yep, that’s me all right, the perfect rebel.




Note: This is an opinion piece of the author and does not reflect Parents magazine or the medical establishment.



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3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip: Little River Falls, AL

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

3 years.

Dear Jack,

After leaving the Build-A-Bear Workshop in Chattanooga, TN, we drove an hour across Lookout Mountain to my hometown of Fort Payne, AL for the next stop of your monster truck road trip for your 3rd birthday in the Toyota Tundra, which served as your “monster truck.”

We visited Little River Falls, which is just a few miles from the house I was raised. Growing up basically on the Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee border, in the tale end of the Appalachian Mountains, I identify myself more with all three states as opposed to exclusively Alabama.

The truth is, I don’t know much about the rest of my homestate of Alabama; pretty much just the part that is included in the tri-state area around Chattanooga, TN, which was the biggest city I was familiar until I moved away after high school.

I took you there because I wanted to introduce you to the version of being a boy that I knew from the 1980s and ’90s. I was a Cub Scout, so anything to do with the great outdoors, including forests, waterfalls, and huge rocks, I was there.

The reason I chose Little River Falls for your 3rd Birthday Monster Truck Road Trip was ultimately to introduce you to that part of me; a part of me that very much illustrates who I am.

I want you to grow up truly knowing me, in real time. To know me, I knew you had to experience seeing that strong yet reserved beauty of not only the waterfall and canyon, but also the therapeutic drive through it.

You were able to see where they paved a two lane road around a big tall rock. How cool is that?

This is the version of the South that I grew up in… exploring nature and making a simple, yet memorable adventure out of it.

Speaking of, I want to tell you more about the drive through the mountains.

To be continued…





Disclaimer: The vehicle mentioned in this story was provided at the expense of Toyota, for the purpose of reviewing.


P.S. You were here. By that, I mean, the red star on this map.


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A Nice Civilized Family Meal At The Kitchen Table… With a Toddler

Monday, November 12th, 2012

23 months.

For the first time ever, we had dinner together as a family, at the kitchen table, with no high chairs involved. Just my son’s booster seat.

Somehow his reaction to “eating at the table like a big boy” came across like he was a Southern rapper in a video shoot, showing off his newly acquired grandiose lifestyle.

I don’t know why he felt the need to put his foot on the table while he sipped on his pureed vegetable pouch; but he insisted, and we didn’t argue.

After all, this is the South. We can get away with quirky stuff like that simply by saying, “This is the South.”

That might also explain why our son asked for, and received, butter on his homemade whole wheat veggie pizza.

Part of the success of your child making it through an entire dinner, without a high chair, is knowing they actually ate dinner.

We have finally gotten to the point where he understands he must A) eat the same dinner as his parents, B) eat Cheerios and milk, or C) go to bed early.

This particular night he chose both veggie pizza with butter and Cheerios.

Our first family dinner at the kitchen table went much better than I thought it would:

No spills, no melt-downs, and most importantly, I actually got to finish my meal without any annoying interruptions.

I like this change. My son will be 2 years old in just a few days and his maturity is starting to show.

Perhaps he’s just simply eager to please his parents as the only child (so far?) but I could tell he really liked feeling a part of the family during our dinner.

My expectations were so low, rightfully. Fortunately, my son proved me wrong.

Maybe the secret is just adding butter. If so, it’s worth it. No more of me quickly eating dinner over the kitchen sink before I have to rush him upstairs for his bedtime.

At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

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Will My Kid Have A Southern Accent?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

19 months.

Today my son Jack asked me to turn on the TV so he could watch Elmo on Netlflix.

By “watch” I mean “point to Elmo when he appears on the screen then let Sesame Street serve as background noise as Jack plays with his toys.”

And by “asked me” I mean he simply pointed at the TV and said “On?”

But his version of “on” was pronounced “own.” Whereas when I say the word to him to teach the difference between off and on, I pronounce it as “ahn.”

We live in Nashville, Tennessee. It assumed that people here speak with a thick Southern accent, if for no other reason, because this is where all the Country music stars live.

But the thing is, most of those Country artists moved here from Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, or some other state in the South. And if they are actually from Tennessee, they’re from a good hour outside of Nashville.

Visit Nashville and you will find that most people here don’t actually have a thick accent. Instead, you may here some Indiana or Maryland or Colorado in there instead.

Like my wife, for example, who is from Sacramento, California. And even though I was raised in the South, I don’t have the accent to prove it because my mom was raised in Buffalo, New York.

So Jack is being raised in a major Southern city consisting of a very high concentration of transplants and internationals, by two parents who don’t sound like they are part of the cast of The Dukes of Hazzard or The Beverly Hillbillies.

I predict that though he may have some Southern tendencies regarding his accent right now, when it’s all said and done he will talk the way I do. Like he’s from Louisville, Kentucky or Cincinnati, Ohio.

In other words, a virtually untraceable American accent.

On top of all this, have you ever noticed how Southern accents are extremely rare and underrepresented on TV?

When a character on a TV show or movie is from the South, they often embody a negative or theatrical stereotype, like Sawyer on Lost.

Or even if the actual actor is from the South, they neutralize their accent to be taken more seriously in the world of entertainment.

NBC’s The Office is a prime example of this. The actors who play Andy, Kevin, and Angela are real-life Southerners who don’t show it in the way they speak.

Based on my own unprofessional (!) Wikipedia research, about 35% of Americans are Southerners speaking with a Southern accent. Population-wise, if my assumptions are correct, more Americans speak in Southern dialect than do Midwestern, Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Western, or any other American accent that exists.

So when we watch TV and movies, we are more likely to hear neutralized accents than we are to hear the same accent that the actual slight majority of America actually speaks.

I believe my son’s “own” will eventually become “ahn” when he tries to say “on.” But I guarantee you that, like his parents, he will still use the word “ya’ll.”

He may pronounce it “yahl” as opposed to the true Southern way, which is “yawh,” in which no actual “L” sound is heard, but at least there will be a little proof he is a Southerner based on how he speaks.

Not to mention the whole “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” thing; which, as his dad, I will make sure he says, ensuring his status as a true Southern gentleman.

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The Relevance of Country Music, As a Dad

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Seven months.

For this past Father’s Day, I received a card from my wife, a card from my son (whose handwriting looks suspiciously similar to my wife’s), and Brad Paisley’s new CD, This is Country Music. It was just perfect.

How could I, the guy whose passion is to positively re-brand fatherhood, not be a fan of a genre of music that respects the idea of family and faith?

Despite living my whole life in the South, I don’t have a Southern accent.  Nor do I drive a pick-up truck, wear Wrangler jeans, or know how to rope a calf.  But I ama proud fan of Country music.  Not only did I meet my wife in 2006 because of it (we met while waiting in line for a taping of the CMT show Crossroads in Nashville), but I grew up in the same small town as the legendary band, Alabama.

While I can’t personally relate to the songs about tractors, cheatin’, and honky tonk badonkadonks, I can relate to the way Country music is brave enough to be simple and honest.

In other forms of music, like Rock, it’s not quite as acceptable or natural or cool to talk about your wife and kids.  Or to mention that you love Jesus, without it being ironic somehow.  In other words, Country music, more than any other genre, holds the strongest value for family and faith.

I am very sensitive to sexism; especially in music, because music is so influential on our culture, whether we are willing to accept it or not.  And this goes for not only Rap music where it is common to openly degrade women to the standard of sex objects in bikinis at pool parties and refer to them as words that are not in my vocabulary, but also in Pop music where it is normal for man-bashing to be common.

Honestly, I don’t care what kind of music it is, if it negatively stereotypes either women or men, it bothers me.  I don’t take it lightly.  Both women and men deserve respect and honor, not to be damned into a stereotype of bimbos and idiots.

But with Country Music, it’s not something I really have to think about.  Because for every “you’re a no good liar” type of Country song that exists, there are a dozen “I love my wife and kids” songs to overpower it.  That’s not the case in other genres.

Granted, I don’t just listen to Country.  I love Jazz,  90’s Alternative, and anything in the likeness of Guster and Pete Yorn.

But when I hear a song like “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington, or “Love Without End, Amen,” by George Strait, there’s a connection there that just can’t be matched by even the coolest, trendiest Rock star.

“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,

A secret that my daddy said was just between us,

You see, daddies don’t just love their children every now and then,

It’s a love without end, Amen.”

Love Without End, Amen by George Strait

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