Tag Archives: family

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!

To everyone out there, no matter how jaded you might be after this past year, I wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

I know this year has disrupted many plans, holiday and non-holiday alike. They’ve certainly disrupted mine. I can attest that Thanksgiving this year will be very different for me compared to previous years. The large family gatherings that I’m so fond of just aren’t possible to do safely.

As disappointing as that is, I won’t let it stop me from enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, nor should it stop anyone else. It may require some frustrating adaptations. It may also require a working knowledge of video chatting and Zoom. It’s still worth doing.

That’s what you do for family.

That’s what you do for the holidays.

It’s part of what makes you thankful to have them in your life.

That’s worth celebrating and I encourage everyone to do so.

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Holiday Memories: A Cherished Thanksgiving Memory

As you get older, you come to treasure certain memories more than most. It’s a natural thing. If you’ve conducted yourself a certain way, it can be a beautiful thing. It’s not always a pleasant process, especially as you encounter major life challenges and inevitable hardships. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

The holidays are a time during which we form many such memories. I certainly have. Some of my most cherished memories occurred over the holidays. Some were on Christmas and some were on Thanksgiving. This year, with so many friends and family still isolated due to the pandemic, I find myself contemplating those memories more than usual.

I doubt I’m alone. There’s just no getting around it. For Thanksgiving, especially, we just can’t do things the way we normally do in 2020. That’s just the reality of a deadly pandemic. We can’t travel, get together, or casually share used forks. It’s sad and frustrating, but that’s just the way things have to be for this year.

For me and my family, that’s especially difficult. That’s because every year, my parents make it a point to make their house, the same one I grew up in, the epicenter of all things Thanksgiving. Every year, family from all over traveled to our part of the country to get together, have a giant meal, and just enjoy each other’s company.

These gatherings were often the biggest family gatherings of the year. It wasn’t unusual for there to be at least 20 people crammed into that house. It was big and rowdy, but we all loved it. I certainly did. We had so much fun, sharing in the joys of food, family, and football. I’m really going to miss that this year.

Rather than dwell on that, though, I’d like to share a quick personal story that I hope will get others through this pandemic-hit holiday. It just happens to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories of all time and one that perfectly defines what makes my family so awesome.

This particular memory unfolded when I was fairly young. I was still in elementary school at the time and much of my extended family wasn’t that much older. Once again, my parents made their house the central focus of Thanksgiving festivities and we attracted quite a crowd. I remember aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends joining in, some of which I hadn’t seen in years.

In addition to the usual gathering and feasting, the weather this year was just perfect. It was unusually warm for late November. A number of cousins and friends wore shorts and a T-shirt. It was just that nice out. As a result, we hung around outside a lot more than usual. It’s here where this Thanksgiving memory really takes hold.

Shortly after we ate, a bunch of cousins and extended family gathered in the backyard and started throwing around a football, as many are inclined to do on Thanksgiving. It started as a simple game of catch between a few cousins. It then evolved into a full-fledged game, complete with route running, elaborate plays, and touchdown dances.

We didn’t plan it.

We didn’t keep score.

We didn’t even set clear rules and time limits.

We all just came together as friends and family to play a football game in the backyard. It felt so natural and organic. It was a perfect manifestation of everything we loved about Thanksgiving get-togethers.

If that weren’t memorable enough, some clouds rolled in near sunset and it started raining suddenly. However, not one person in the backyard ran inside. If anything, it just made everyone more excited to play. The game kept going. We kept running around, tackling each other, and just had an all-around great time.

Being a kid with a belly full of Thanksgiving dinner, I honestly didn’t want it to end. I wanted to just hang out back there and play football until the sun went down. Even as some friends and family had to leave, we kept going for as long as we could. When it finally ended, I knew on some levels that this had been a special Thanksgiving.

Time has only proven that sentiment right. To date, it’s one of my most cherished Thanksgiving memories. I’ll likely cherish it even more as I endure a Thanksgiving without that big family gathering I’ve come to love and appreciate. I know many in my family feel the same way.

Thanksgiving this year may be disappointing in its scope, but I would encourage them and everyone who shares that feeling to think back to those memories. More importantly, use them as inspiration, as well as motivation, to make Thanksgiving in 2021 even more special.

I hope this little story has boosted your holiday spirits. I also hope everyone finds a way to enjoy Thanksgiving this year, however tempered it might be. The holidays are here. Let’s not allow a pandemic to dampen our spirits.

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On My Way To A Wedding!

Today is a very exciting day. This year may have been awful in so many ways for so many people, but that only makes days like this even more precious.

Today, I’m set to attend a wedding for one of my siblings. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t offer much in terms of details. I’ll just say that I’m very excited for them. They found a wonderful person to spend the rest of their life with and, being the romance lover I am, I’m going to cheer them on.

While a wedding in 2020 has plenty of complications, we’re still going to make this work. That does mean some attendees will have to observe these precious moments via Zoom or FaceTime. It’s not the same as being there, but they can still be part of this.

We’re keeping this wedding simple and sincere. You don’t need a palace, an oversized cake, or hundreds of people throwing rice. You just need friends, family, and two people who love each other enough to get married.

To all those who have braved the horrors of 2020 to share in this moment, I commend you. Love is a beautiful and powerful force. No pandemic can stop it, even in a year like this.

It’s a beautiful thing. I’m excited to be part of it. As one of the lucky few who will be there in person, I intend to make this day as special and as awesome as I can for my family.

Wish me luck, energy, and awesome as I cherish this day with my family!

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Global Pandemic Likely To Decrease Birthrates (After I Predicted The Opposite)

In general, human beings are awful at predicting the future. That’s why those who successfully do are so celebrated. I’ve certainly made a few predictions in the past. Some are broad and far-reaching. We won’t know how accurate or dead wrong they are for years, possibly until after I’m long gone.

However, some are simply bound to be proven wrong in short order. There’s no shame in that. You dare to speculate. Sometimes, you just end up being wrong. Earlier this year, I speculated that the lock-downs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a miniature baby boom.

I thought my logic was sound. People are going to be stuck at home with their significant others for extended periods. The aspiring erotica romance writer in me thought that was all it would take. Keep two people together at home long enough with little else to do and eventually things will get sexy. When things get sexy, babies tend to get made.

The logic may be simple and sexy, but the real world is complicated and chaotic. Now, recent reports indicate that my prediction was so wrong that the opposite might be happening. The Daily Mail reports that, amidst the pandemic, very few women are getting pregnant and the overall fertility rate is plummeting.

Daily Mail: Americans are NOT getting pregnant amid the pandemic as experts warn already declining fertility could plummet further

In addition to the unsteady economy, couples are also likely experiencing fear and anxiety over the public health crisis and its uncertain end.

Fertility rates have been steadily declining over the last several years and some believe the COVID-19 crisis could cause these rates to plummet.

Demographers and public policy experts say fewer children will mean not enough healthy, young workers to keep the economy going and replace the aging US population.

One report has even predicted that as many as 500,000 fewer babies could be born, which coupled with the death toll from the virus, could lead to a stagnating economy.

I freely admit I got this wrong. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have made that prediction on such simplistic logic. I should’ve also factored in the anxiety that comes with a massive economic downturn and the fear that comes with not knowing if you or your loved ones will get sick. Those are incredibly relevant forces. They do plenty in terms of undermining anyone’s inclination to get frisky.

It’s a dire situation on so many levels. It’s also understandable. Who would want to have kids during a crisis like this? Who would even want to try? These are not good times for starting families. The world, the economy, and society in general is in a very precarious state. Isolation or not, few people are in the mood and that’s not likely to change in the near-future.

Declining birth rates was already an ongoing trend. This pandemic might just accelerate it. How low will it go? I won’t try to predict that. I’ve already demonstrated that I’m not good at predicting the extent to which people will get frisky.

As for what happens when the pandemic is over, that might be worth speculating on. I’ll try not to make too bold a prediction here, but I will say this. Whenever this crisis ends, whether it’s when a vaccine emerges or when new cases drop to zero, I think people will celebrate. Some of those celebrations might get sexy. Will it be enough to offset this sudden dip in baby-making?

I don’t know. Only time will tell. We just have to get through this first. That should be our main priority. The sexy stuff can and should come afterwards.

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“Rick And Morty” Season 4 Finale: Reaction, Thoughts, And Intrigue

For any show, the difference between a good season finale and a great season finale isn’t just how much it leaves you wanting more. It’s making you want more and feel something more than impatience for new episodes. Most shows don’t go that extra mile. They’re content to just build a little excitement for the next season.

However, “Rick and Mortyisn’t most shows. After four seasons, that’s abundantly and hilariously clear.

Recently, the show aired its season 4 finale, “Star Mort: Rickturn of the Jerri.” For a show that was delayed for so long, and subject to a lot of criticism for its fan base, it had a lot to live up to. It would’ve been easy for it to falter, given the current state of the world.

That didn’t happen, though. This remarkable, quirky, eccentric show found a way to cap off season in a profoundly satisfying way. For a show that’s raised the bar for a lot of things, from sci-fi tropes to fart jokes, that’s saying something.

The synopsis of the episode has many moving parts. It starts with an invisibility belt and the return of Beth’s clone from The ABC’s of Beth.” From there, it quickly turns into a bloody brawl between Rick, his family, and a newly formed galactic federation, courtesy of Tammy and a rebuilt Bird Person. I won’t spoil all the details. I’ll just say that there’s a lot of bloody brawls, spilled bear, and shameless promotion of wrangler jeans.

Trust me. That makes sense by Rick and Morty standards.

As a finale, it wasn’t quite as groundbreaking as “The Wedding Squanchers,” but it had a much more dramatic impact than The Rickchurian Mortydate.” It also helped that the episode built on the continuity established in previous seasons, namely “The ABC’s of Beth.” It took an open question as to whether Beth was a clone and turned it into a more complex story.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about this episode when it began. However, those feelings quickly changed as the episode unfolded. By the end, I felt like this episode and this season, as a whole, achieved something special. In the context of larger “Rick and Morty” lore, it gave new depth to the show and its characters.

More than anything else, the last few minutes of the episode furthers a trend that began at the end of Season 3. It was subtle for a while, but now it’s very overt.

Rick Sanchez is losing control over his family.

By that, I don’t mean he can’t influence them. He’s the smartest man in the multiverse. He literally has any number of methods for doing that. The issue here is that they no longer need him.

Since the show began, Rick has asserted himself as someone his family needs to some extent. Morty needs him to grow, both in terms of strength and capability. Beth needs him because she needs her father’s approval. Jerry and Summer need him, by default, since Beth and Morty need him.

Control matters to Rick. It matters a lot. If he’s not in total control of his world, then he can’t handle it. He values being able to do anything at any time with his genius. Throughout the show, he demonstrates capabilities that are almost god-like. Hell, at one point in this season, he actually fights a god.

However, he can’t do any of that to the degree he wants without maintaining control. This is perfectly demonstrated in the episode, “The Old Man and the Seat.” It’s an episode with a similar ending, in terms of tone. In that episode, Rick is left by himself, berated by other holograms of himself. He’s sad, alone, and miserable. It’s not quite as dark as the ending to “Auto Erotic Assimilation,” but it sends the same message.

Rick Sanchez is not well.

He’s broken, damaged, and flawed.

He’s a terrible father, a bad friend, and hates himself.

He’s miserable, despite being the smartest, most capable being in the universe.

He can manage all that through the connections he has with his family, on top of his copious alcohol consumption. However, as season 4 has unfolded, we see his family drifting further and further apart. It’s not that they’re pushing him away. They just make it clear that they don’t need him. To Rick, that’s even worse than being pushed away.

Whereas season 3 began with Rick having almost complete control over his family, Season 4 ends with him losing it. It raises an intriguing question.

What does Rick Sanchez do when nobody needs him anymore?

This episode even teased a distressing answer. Tammy points out that when Rick is alone, he’s not a threat to anyone other than himself. Without Morty or his family, he’s lacking and it shows in how much he gets his ass kicked. It hints that without his family, Rick Sanchez loses a part of himself that he can’t replace, even with his genius and alcohol tolerance.

It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues in Season 5, whenever that may come. It’ll also be interesting to see how it effects other dangling plot threads, namely Evil Morty. A more broken Rick Sanchez is sure to be a more dangerous and unstable Rick Sanchez. Given how big an asshole he can be at times, it’s hard to sympathize with him. However, Star Mort: Rickturn of the Jerri” managed to make us feel for him.

I’m already looking forward to the next season.

Until then, wubba lubba dub dub!

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Another Awesome Story About My Awesome Mom On Mother’s Day Eve

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For some people, it’s just one of those Hallmark Holidays that requires that you purchase a card, make a phone call, and watch a few cheesy 1-800-Flowers ad. For those lucky enough to have an awesome mom like mine, it’s more than that.

I’ve said it before on multiple occasions. I’ll keep finding other ways to say it until the entire internet hears it.

My mom is awesome.

That is not in dispute. That’s just an objective fact on par with math and gravity. I knew that when I was still a kid. I know that now as a full-grown adult. With each passing year, I come to appreciate my mother’s awesome more and more. That makes celebrating Mother’s Day extra special.

For a mom like mine, a card just won’t cut it. Even during a pandemic, I’m going to find a way to go the extra mile to show my mom how much I love and appreciate her. As part of that effort, I’d like to share another personal story that further proves my mom’s greatness. If this doesn’t get the point across, then you’re just being difficult.

This particular story is small in scope, but incredibly revealing with respect to the kind of person my mother is. I don’t know if she’ll remember this. I know she reads this site every now and then. I hope she does because for me, it’s one of those powerful memories that has only gotten more meaningful with time.

The setting of this story is simple, but still requires a bit of context. It occurred when I was in my late teens. It was the middle of summer and I was home from college. For me, that didn’t just mean sitting around all day, waiting for the fall semester to begin. I worked during the summers. I was also expected to do chores on the weekends. One of them involved mowing the lawn.

Now, that was one of my least favorite chores and my mom knew that. I still did it, but was rarely thrilled about it. I need to establish that before I lay out what happened. It matters with respect to how this ordeal played out.

It occurred on a Saturday morning. I was downstairs in the basement, watching TV and working on my laptop, as I often did. Then, my mother comes walking down the stairs and she’s not in a good mood. It has nothing to do with what I or any of my siblings did. She’s just miserable, restless, and tense, as people can get for no apparent reason.

While in that mood, she tells me to mow the lawn and she’s not nice about it. She doesn’t ask me to do it. She doesn’t even say, please. She just tells me to do it in a crass, callous way that is not typical of my mother. It shows just how bad a mood she was in that day.

Naturally, I don’t react with much enthusiasm. I groan and roll my eyes, but it’s not just because I hate mowing the lawn. That’s not how anyone wants to be told to do something. My mother senses this, as I’m not subtle about it. Not surprisingly, goes off and tell me not to give her any attitude.

Then, in a response I honestly didn’t think much about, I tell her, in so many words, that she could’ve at least said please. She also could’ve been less rude about it. I even threw in a comment about how she’d taught me to be courteous and polite all my life. I don’t remember exactly what I said because, like I said, I didn’t give much thought to my response. A part of me still dreaded my mother’s response.

What happened next is a further testament to my mother’s character. Almost immediately, her crummy mood changed. She put her hand up, shook her head, and apologized. She acknowledged that she was rude and in the wrong. I instinctively accepted that apology. I still agreed to mow the lawn later that day and I did.

What stands out so much about that moment was how much humility my mother showed in that moment. I’m her son and she’s the parent. Usually, the dynamic is reversed. It’s the parent who’s supposed to call the child out when they’re being rude or impolite. When the roles are flipped, it doesn’t go the same way.

My mother was well within her right, as a parent, to just brush off my comment. She was also within her right to pile onto it and call me an asshole for daring to call her out like that. She could’ve just said, “I can talk to you however I want because I’m your mom. That’s that.” Instead, she chose the more respectable path.

She showed that she practiced the values she preached to me and my siblings. She holds herself to the same standard that she holds me. When she’s wrong or rude, she owns up to it. She takes responsibility and apologizes, just as she would expect of me if I were in that position. It was a small gesture, but I gained a whole new level of respect for my mother that day.

I know more than a few people whose parents take full advantage of their authority. To them, respect is not earned from a child. It’s a given, even when it’s not reciprocated. There are instances when that’s necessary, but this wasn’t one of them. My mother was self-aware enough to recognize that and set a better example. Since then, I’ve done my best to meet those standards.

There are so many other wonderful stories that I could share about my mother. Some are more elaborate than others. This one is small by comparison, but it’s those kinds of stories that help you really appreciate the kind of person someone is. My mother is wonderful in so many ways. This is just one of them. It’s part of what makes Mother’s Day worth celebrating.

To my awesome mom, I love you with all my heart.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Recounting My Fondest Easter Memories

As a holiday, Easter tends to be somewhat forgettable. Unless you’re a member of a religious sect that really emphasizes the religious aspects of Easter, it’s probably not on your list of favorite holidays. It’s on a Sunday, which means nobody gets a day off school. It doesn’t involve fancy presents or decorations, either. I imagine some people didn’t even realize that Easter is tomorrow.

That’s understandable. I certainly don’t fault anyone who only knows Easter as the holiday that inspires egg-shaped candy. For me, however, Easter has a more personal meaning. It’s not for any religious or cultural reasons. It has everything to do with how I experienced it with my family.

As I’ve noted before, and will likely note many times over, my family is awesome. It would take days on end to list all the reasons why, but Easter is among the more unique reasons. That’s because my family rarely needs a major excuse to throw a party.

Whether it’s a holiday, a major life event, or a combination of the two, we jump at the chance to make it into a formal get-together. Even after various family members have moved away for one reason or another, we still make an effort to come together and enjoy each other’s company. Easter was just one of them.

With that in mind, I’d like to share one particular Easter memory that has always stood out for me. It happened when I was a young, overly energetic kid. At the time, everything was still new to me and I didn’t entirely understand the Easter holiday. I just knew that it involved going to my grandmother’s house and having a big dinner with my many relatives.

That may not sound like much, but trust me. For a kid, it meant a lot. That’s because my grandmother was an incredible cook. She took to cooking Easter dinner the same way most take to cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a football team. From the crack of dawn to sunset, she was in the kitchen, cooking up something delicious. Some were entrees and other were deserts. No matter what it was, I just remember it being delicious.

It eventually culminated around dinner time in the mid to late afternoon. Once my father made the announcement, the rush was on. The food was ready and by then, everyone was starving. I certainly was.

However, there was no way my grandmother’s kitchen table was big enough to handle all the food. Instead, my dad and other relatives set up a this big buffet table in the basement of her house. It was like a shrine to my grandmother’s cooking prowess and everyone congregated to admire its splendor.

To this day, I still remember the amazing smell of that buffet. I can close my eyes and remember the smell of meatballs, ham, ravioli, and sweet potatoes. Beyond the quality of the food, I also remember how happy everyone was as they fixed their plate, found a place to sit, and just hung out to enjoy each other’s company.

It might not sound like much, but as a kid, it left an impression. It showed how powerful it was for family to come together, catch up, and enjoy some great food. You could feel the love, the bonds, and the connections that spanned multiple generations. The fact that people would drive hundreds of miles just to taste my grandmother’s cooking certainly helped.

That Easter really set the tone for how great a family gathering could be. It gave me a lasting impression of who my family was and why the bonds we forged matter so much. I don’t remember much else from that part of my life, but I’ll always remember that Easter.

Sadly, my grandmother is no longer with us. I miss her every day, but I miss her even more whenever Easter comes around. I can’t speak for everyone in my family, but I bet they’d agree that she made every Easter special. Some were just more special than others.

I know this year might feel like a lost year for Easter, but that only makes those bonds we cherish more precious. Even if we can’t come together in a formal gathering, we can still connect. Whether it’s just for a ham dinner or for hiding Easter Eggs for the kids, it’s a chance to come together and it’s a chance worth taking.

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July/August 2020: A Local Baby Boom Triggered By DC Sports?

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As a lifelong fan of sports who lives in the Baltimore/DC metro area, I’m very aware of major events and achievements in sports that affect these areas.

I was very aware when the Washington Redskins won the Superbowl in 1992.

I was very aware when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012.

I was very aware of when Robert Griffin III took the league by storm in 2012.

I’m also aware that Lamar Jackson has the Baltimore Ravens looking like Super Bowl contenders this year.

When there’s reason to cheer, I tend to notice. After 2012, however, this area didn’t have many reasons to be cheerful. The Baltimore/DC area has had mixed luck at best when it comes to major sports. The DC area was especially unlucky in that, until very recently, no major sports team had won a championship since the Redskins did it in 1992. That’s a long drought, albeit not the longest.

That finally changed in 2018 when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Make no mistake. This was a big deal for the area. My ears are still ringing from some of the cheering I heard. It also made the area subject to an interesting, but sexy side-effect of winning a championship. It may or may not have inspired a bit of a baby boom in the area.

Now, that makes sense intuitively. When your team wins, especially after a long drought, fans are going to celebrate. Sometimes, the celebrations get sexy. When things get sexy, babies sometimes get made. That’s just the nature of celebrations and they’re a beautiful thing.

While it’s hard to determine how much or how little of a baby boom there was once the Capitals won the cub in 2018, there was a notable uptick in babies being named after players. There has also been some previous research about cities or regions that win the Super Bowl on whether a championship causes a spike in birth rates. To date, the research is inconclusive.

However, there is some reason to suspect that championships in certain areas cause a baby boom. When the Chicago Cubs won the world series in 2016, ending a championship drought that was over 100 years old, there was a documented uptick in births nine months later. That implies that whether or not a baby boom occurs after a championship depends heavily on the city.

This brings me back to the DC area. Just a month and a half ago, the Washington Nationals capped off a historic playoff run to win their first World Series since the franchise moved from Montreal back in 2005. It also marked the first World Series won by a DC baseball team since 1924.

As someone who lives near the area, I can confirm that this was an emotional achievement. I have family members who remembered vividly when DC lost its baseball team back in the 1970s. It was a sad time for the region. Some thought they would never see baseball in DC again.

Then, the Washington Nationals came back and, for most of their early history, they were terrible. Even when they got good, though, they developed a reputation for choking in the playoffs. For them to win it all this year, especially after starting 19-31, was nothing short of astounding.

The celebrations this achievement triggered were a sight to behold. It also had me check my calendar. The Nationals capped off their championship on October 30, 2019. That means in late July, early August 2020, we’ll find out just how much celebrating DC sports fans did after that historic achievement.

I’ve already got my calendar marked. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the local news to see if there’s an uptick in births throughout the area during that time. If I find something, I’ll be sure to share the results. Honestly, as a long-time resident of the DC/Baltimore area, I hope there is a bit of a spike. If nothing else, it’ll show the people in my area know how to celebrate in sexy ways.

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Jack Fisher’s Guide To (Awesome) Gift Giving

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It’s official now. Thanksgiving is over. The leftovers are mostly gone. That means for the next few weeks, the holiday spirit will revolve entirely around Christmas and Christmas-like festivities. There’s no more complaining about seeing holiday decorations too early. At this point, the time is right to get into the swing of things.

Whether you celebrate it or not, there’s no avoiding it. The season is upon us. We see it in commercials, holiday specials, holiday-themed food, and holiday music. By now, we’ve all probably heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at least a dozen times on the radio.

Without a doubt, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It always has been. As a kid, my family always did so many wonderful things around Christmas. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place around Christmas. As an adult, I found entirely new ways to make it memorable. I’ve every intention of keeping that tradition, especially once I find the love of my life.

Chief among those traditions is my approach to gift giving. Talk to anyone in my family and they’ll tell you the same thing. When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, I go above and beyond. I’m not the kind of guy who will be cheap or thoughtless. I’m also not the kind of guy who puts in minimal effort, stuffing cheap crap into bags and slapping tags on it. I am willing to put extra time and money into holiday gift giving.

It doesn’t matter if I’m buying for my parents, my siblings, my friends, or my nieces and nephews, who are all still kids. I make it a point to give them gifts that are special, memorable, and meaningful. From what I get into how I wrap them, I make sure every gift I give on the holidays conveys a sense of love and sincerity.

For that reason, and in hopes of inspiring others to go the extra mile this Christmas, I’d like to share my unofficial guide, of sorts, to gift giving on the holidays. It’s not a science, but it’s not some wild crap shoot either. You can give awesome gifts without being rich, psychic, or possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus.

These are simple tips and tricks that I’ve learned from years of successful gift giving. I sincerely hope they help enhance your holiday experience, both with respect to giving gifts and inspiring the right spirit for this time of year.


Tip #1: Be Proactive And Listen Along The Way

This may seem too obvious, but I’ll say it anyways. When it comes to Christmas shopping, you don’t want to procrastinate. I know that’s easier said than done. I know there’s a reason why people feel inclined to procrastinate. Given everything that goes on during the holidays, people have even more excuses.

However, this is one effort for which you really want to be proactive. That means planning or at least contemplating your gift giving schedule around Halloween. It may sound too early, but trust me. It pays off.

This past year, I began browsing Amazon, Ebay, and all the usual retail outlets around mid-October, putting together lists of potential gifts for loved ones. I didn’t buy anything at that point. The idea wasn’t to buy it all at once. That’s actually not a good strategy. The best recourse, in my experience, is to have a long list of possible gifts. It’s just a matter of selecting the right gift for the right person.

You won’t always know that in mid-October. You might not even know that until mid-December. That’s where the listening part comes in. As early as Labor Day, start listening to your friends and family. Get a sense for what they want or need. You don’t have to be obvious. A little tact goes a long way.

Then, once Thanksgiving comes around and every major outlet starts throwing big sales, you already have a list of gifts to work with. Take advantage of those sales and you’ll even save money in the process. There is literally no downside to being proactive during the holidays, which is why it’s probably the most important tip I can give for the holidays.


Tip #2: Be Transparent With Loved Ones For Their Gifts (And Yours)

This tactic is a bit more subtle, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, in order to glean what your loved ones want for Christmas, you have to start by letting them know what you want. Most of my friends and relatives agree. I’m very easy to shop for on the holidays.

That’s not just because I maintain an Amazon Wish List and that most of my requests involve comics, video games, and accessories that rarely cost more than $50. I’m hope and honest about what I want them to get me. I’ll go so far as to text them multiple links to items I want. When you’re that easy to shop for, people are more willing to return the favor.

This has helped a great deal with loved ones who rarely give me any clues about what to get them. Some are just difficult to shop for because they claim to not want anything. Some are genuinely sincere about that. However, they know I’m still getting them something. It can either be just some random thing I guess on or something they can help make meaningful.

Sometimes, it takes a few years to get that sort of rapport with a loved one, but it’s worth doing. Trust me. When you find that right gift for that someone and see their reaction, it makes the holidays that much more special.


Tip #3: Find Meaningful Gifts (Which Need Not Be Expensive)

This is another tip that seems logical, but is easier said than done. That whole notion that it’s the thought that counts isn’t completely wrong, but it still has some merit. Meaningful gifts are the best kind of gifts to get someone. It can have both sentimental and material value. If you really care about someone, you want this gift to send a message. Giving it meaning always helps.

Years ago, a friend of mine got his girlfriend an iPod mini. It was simple. It didn’t seem that meaningful at first. Then, I found out he engraved a quote from his girlfriend’s mother on the back. That quote made that gift more meaningful than anything else he could’ve given her. Needless to say, that was a memorable Christmas and my friend is still with that same woman.

Giving a gift greater meaning also doesn’t mean buying something expensive. Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given cost less than $20, but they were extremely personal and they sent a message to the person I gave it to. They got that message loud and clear. Our Christmas was better because of it. You can put a price on a lot of things during the holidays, but you can’t put a dollar value on genuine sentiment.


Tip #4: Know When (And How) A Gift Card Is Appropriate

This is a somewhat controversial topic among gift-giving circles. There’s this notion that if you really care about someone, you never give them a gift card. Gift cards are great for birthdays or for people you can’t always see very often, but there’s a taboo with respect to giving them as a Christmas gift. I don’t entirely agree with that.

In general, I don’t give gift cards. I treat it as a last resort, but it’s still an option. I just try to make it more than just a socking stuffer. You can give greater meaning to a gift card. One year, I included a gift card with a Christmas card that has a poem I wrote in it. That poem helped give greater value to the gift card. It made the gesture personal. It showed that I cared and it got the point across.

In the right circumstances, gift cards can totally work. When someone can’t be there for the holidays or is still new to the family, as is often the case with in laws and extended family, a gift card can go a long way towards establishing a rapport. I find that it’s a useful starting point with someone, but it shouldn’t be the endpoint.

Personally, I hope the taboo surrounding gift cards fades in the coming years. With more and more shopping being done online, I think gift cards are a lot more practical today than they were when I was a kid. The rules surrounding them may change, but for now, a gift card should remain a last resort when shopping for a loved one.


Tip #5: Make A List (And Check It More Than Twice)

That old adage about Santa having a list and checking it twice isn’t just a memorable song lyric. It’s a very practical tool for keeping track of your holiday gift giving. I maintain a list on my phone that has everyone I buy a gift for, as well as some ideas on what to get them. I constantly update that list over the course of the year and I let people know when they’re on it.

When the time comes to start buying, I use that list to track what I buy, who I buy it for, and how they react to it. This list, which can get a little bloated at times, acts as both a reference and a guide onto how I perform every Christmas. Given the size of my family and the amount of gifts I buy, it helps to keep track of who gets what. It also helps to identify a certain trend in terms of what certain loved ones like.

Over the years, those trends have helped me refine my gift giving skills for certain people. I learn their tastes. I learn what makes a gift meaningful to them. Most importantly, I keep track of it. Don’t expect to remember all these little quirks over the course of a year.

Keep a list. Check it constantly, especially around mid-November. It’ll ensure you know what to look for and who to get it for when the time comes. It also acts as a way of noting ideas that come to you for certain people. On more than one occasion, I’ll randomly see something online or in a store that I know someone would love for Christmas. I make a note of it and it pays off in the long run.


I hope this helps everyone in their gift giving efforts this season. As I write this, I’m proud to say my shopping is done. I have my presents ready and wrapped for my loved ones. I look forward to seeing their reactions on Christmas morning. I hope everyone else can enjoy a similar holiday experience.

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Filed under human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships

Answering (And Understanding) Where The “Good” Men Have Gone

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Human beings are social creatures. We’re biologically wired to pursue social and emotional bonds. It’s one of the most fundamental traits for being human. Being a fan of romance, I certainly appreciate it. For that same reason, though, I think it’s telling when people encounter barriers in seeking those bonds.

In recent years, one particular question has been asked any number of ways. It’s often asked in many different contexts, which in turn inspires many different answers. The implications are still the same.

Where have all the “good” men gone?

Now, I put “good” in quotation marks for a reason. I hope that reason becomes apparent soon enough because adding that qualifier to the question frames it as a blanket statement about an entire gender. As a man, who sees himself as “good” by most standards, I feel I have a personal stake in addressing this question. However, I suspect the answers I provide won’t go over well with certain women and even a few men.

Before I answer, it’s important to add a specific context to what makes a man “good.” When the question is often asked, it’s often done from the perspective of women seeking men for marriage. We no longer live in an era where women have their spouses chosen for them or must seek marriage as a means of survival. Despite what some regressive individuals may say, I believe that’s an objectively good thing.

The complications arise when we start to establish the criteria of what makes a “good” man worthy of marriage. Most people, regardless of gender, understand there’s a difference between the person you hook up with and the one you marry. Ideally, this is a person you want to share your life with, for better or for worse. This is someone you genuinely love and go out of your way for.

The primary reason why this question is being asked, namely by women seeking a male spouse, is because they’re having an increasingly difficult time finding someone who meets that criteria. It shows in the data. According to Pew Research, about half of the adult population in America is married, which marks significant decline compared to what it was 50 years ago.

There are many theories as to why this is occurring, some more offensively absurd than others. Even the not-so-absurd theories have become mired in gender politics, which has a tendency to denigrate everyone in the grand scheme of things. I certainly have mine and I don’t think the answers are simple. Every person is different. People are complicated, in general, and so are the societies they live in.

However, this question about “good” men frames the issue a problem ascribed to men. It implies that the issue has nothing to do with a the overall desire to seek long-term romantic bonds. Like I said before, humans are emotional creatures wired to seek romantic bonds. The problem is that the men worthy of such bonds just aren’t there anymore. That’s why women are asking the question to begin with.

As a man, who hopes to one day find someone to marry and love with all my heart, I can offer my take on the answer. Simply put, those good men exist. They’re just not where you’re looking to find them. Even if you are, you might not even realize that those men are good because you don’t give them a chance.

Now, I understand that answer is basic and simplistic. It’s the sentiment of one person who just happens to contemplate romance than most straight men are likely to admit. Everyone’s situation is different, but there is a bigger forest to see and my opinion is only one of those trees. To see that forest, it’s necessary to understand the question better.

Thankfully, there has been research done on this topic. According to a study done in the Journal of Marriage and Family, a major factor driving this question could be a combination of demographics and math. To understand how, this is how they compiled the data.

Focusing their analyses on single heterosexual women, the researchers used data from the American Community Survey (2008-2012; 2013-2017) to predict the likely characteristics of these women’s husbands if they had husbands and then compared those characteristics to what’s actually available in these single women’s dating pool. More specifically, the researchers generated “synthetic spouses” for the single women in their sample by first matching them with demographically similar women (e.g., same race, education, military status, income) who happened to be married. The “synthetic spouses” were designed to reflect the characteristics of the husbands of the similar-married women. Thus, assuming women of similar demographics are looking for similar characteristics in their partners, this method offers a starting point for documenting the characteristics single women might be looking for in a partner.

The long and short of it is simple. The women in the study had criteria for the kind of man they want to marry. However, when that criteria was applied to the male population, there was a significant disparity. Over half the male population was eliminated on the basis of income alone. Essentially, the supply of men who meet this standard for marriage is not sufficient to meet demand.

That’s not to say that it’s the fault of women for having standards that are too high, although I know some have made that argument. While I agree that there are some women who make wholly unreasonable expectations of men, I think they’re the minority. I would argue those changing standards have less to do with gender politics and more to do social and economic factors.

Both women and men are able to be more independent today than they were 50 to 100 years ago. A basic consequence of independence is that you can afford to elevate your standards. When you have the money, time, and resources, you’re less likely to settle for less. It’s the same reason why you willingly pay extra for a better phone or faster internet if you have the means.

A much bigger factor, in my opinion, has to do with the economics and imbalances in marriage. Over the past several decades, the wealth gap has grown and the ability to make a comfortable living, which the women in the study prioritize, is getting considerably difficult. For a man, especially if he doesn’t have a college degree, it’s getting harder and harder to meet those criteria.

At the same time, the investment in relationships has only grown. It’s no longer enough to be a steady, dependable partner. Along with our newfound independence, men and women alike seek something greater from their spouse. That something often requires money, time, and resources. Between student loan debt and the rising cost of living, those assets have become increasingly scarce.

On top of that, the price of failure has gone up considerably as well. While both parties suffer significant loss when a relationship or marriage fails, men tend to take a bigger hit from a material standpoint. Between alimony laws and child custody, men stand to lose a lot if they don’t measure up to the woman’s ideals of a good spouse.

None of this even attempts to factor in the effects of other trends in gender politics, such as the anti-harassment movement. The criteria for a “good” man doesn’t even matter if it becomes overly difficult to be intimate with someone without fear of being accused of something. Even without such complications, the underlying question still evokes troubling answers.

Those answers still aren’t complete. There are still going to be women out there who cannot find a suitable partner for reasons beyond her control. There will also be genuinely good men out there who struggle just as much to find a partner of their own. As a romantic, I believe love does inspire people to make these connections, even when we insist on making it more difficult.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, men's issues, psychology, romance, sex in society, sexuality, women's issues