Monday, February 1, 2016

Call a Spade a Spade

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Call a Spade a Spade
My 7-year-old came home from school last week excited to show me the finished product of a story she had been working on in class.  Her 3-part project included a timeline page, complete with 3 events plotted out to match her colorfully drawn pictures, a hand-written page on lined paper with a primary pencil, and the front cover, a mostly-white page highlighting her paragraph-long essay, thoughtfully typed out for her by her first-grade teacher:

The funniest thing that I saw was when my mom threw her crutches on purpose because she was mad.  First, my sister and I did not clean our room.  Then we walked away down the stairs.  Finally, she threw her crutches and yelled at us. 

After sharing the papers, she went on to say the teacher asked her if she thought she should write about something else in case her mom might be mad about the topic.  

“I told her my mom would be fine with it!” she confidently stated.

She’s right.  Not only am I not mad, I’m thrilled that this totally true story from two-surgeries-ago sticks in her mind as funny.  Having endured three separate knee surgeries and recovery periods in the last year and a half, alongside my wife’s year-long bout of depression, I’ve learned a few important facts:
  • I throw occasional fits that give toddlers a run for their money; that will probably never change
  • Asking for help is both extremely difficult and equally necessary
  • My kids and my wife are not breakable; they are resilient, compassionate and prone to just laughing in my face.
  • Life is unreliable, with the exception of it’s messiness.
  • Every negative creates a positive, if you let it
  • Acknowledging and greeting reality by name is necessary for growth and general well-being, no matter who you are
Am I proud of my crutch-throwing incident? No, I’d put its embarrassment level right on par with the Wendy’s debacle, where after a night out cocktailing, my wife and I decided to hit Wendy’s on foot at 2am for Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers that always seem to soak up the liquor.  Unhappy that the indoor restaurant was closed and only the drive-through was open till 3am, we called an Uber to pick us up at the entrance of restaurant, drive us through the drive-up window to get food, and drop us at our home 2 blocks away.  

My daughter and I sat at the kitchen table and laughed for what seemed like 15 minutes about those crutches flying through the air and the pictures she drew in description of the event.  We talked about my frustration and indignation at having to be limited in my movement, preventing me from quickly exiting the scene in order to put myself in a time-out, and we discussed the surprise, fear, and comic relief that my kids felt all at the same time.  My 1st-grader even re-enacted the scene for me so I could see the scene from her angle.  We laughed so hard we cried.

What can you do but laugh at yourself?  Losing my cool with the crutches coaxed me to acknowledge my vulnerability and highlighted it to my family members.  It forced my kids to learn perspective.  It, along with many other non-picture-perfect moments over the last few years, gave our family the platform on which to build an on-going conversation about confronting our fears and emotions, sharing our feelings, and developing the self-assurance to call a spade a spade.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lay it Down for Wellness

 GayleForce Healing Massage and Bodywork
A longtime proponent of massage therapy, and in more recent years, self-care in general, I’ve realized that a good massage can have immediate short-term effects.  Usually it’s a great way to relieve tension and pain, as well clear my head of a whirlwind of to-do’s.  When I make it a habit, regardless of the interval, I’ve found that consistent massage therapy contributes to my everyday general relaxation and mental well being.

I’ve gone to salons, hotel spas, clinics, doctor’s offices, strip mall chains, and private homes for massages.  My wife even researched massage methods to use at home in order to help alleviate the daily knee pain I had experienced for last year.  Although all different, I’ve never had a bad massage.

Before the holidays, my elementary-aged kids seemed unduly stressed out with homework and activities and friends.  While much of it was self-created with the fast pace of our lives and was controlled by the simple act of slowing down over school break, we didn’t want it to start up again in the new year when school started back up.  Our antidote was Gayle Stephens of Gayleforce Healing Massage and Bodywork.  We booked an in-home wellness day for the kids, where each child was pampered in their own informal setting with a massage.

“I love doing wellness visits,” voiced local parent and massage therapist Gayle.  “Setting up a day for kids, adults, or the whole family is super easy. We can design a session where I bring a massage table or chair, or we can just as easily work on a carpeted floor.”  
ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Lay it Down for Wellness

Gayle brought a mat to our house and worked her massage magic on the floor. We arranged less time for our younger child and more for our pre-teen; they fully enjoyed both their massages and the healing care they received from Gayle.  She made sure to get input from the kids on where they felt the tension/pain and even wrapped them in their own blankets after the massage.

It was incredible to see the same results in my children that I am accustomed to feeling myself after a massage.  While each child uniquely experienced the massage, both children looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from their shoulders.  Neither could believe how how calm and relaxed they felt after Gayle’s visit.

Wellness packages are completely customizable in scope, time, and price.  There’s a package suitable for every budget.   We learned that a little goes a long way and the kids have already asked when Gayle is coming back.  Hoping to add my body into the mix on the next visit.

To book an in-studio or in-home wellness session or for more information, call Gayle Stephens at 773-263-6887 or visit  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Some Things Never Get Old

Some Things Never Get Old - Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged
Click on picture to check out my newest JibJab video!
There are simply some things in life that I will always love, not matter what.  Take, for example, Jib Jabbing, or Elfing Yourself, as it use to be called back in the day.  You can read about my obsession with Jib Jabbing in Feed a Cold and Jib Jab a Griever, but suffice it to say that putting people's faces to prefabricated music video characters is something that makes me tick.  No matter how busy, tired, or jacked-up I feel, I always have time to put a smile on someone's face, literally, and send it out to make someone's day, as well as my own.

I have spent hour upon hour doing this for fun.  Last year, I neglected to send out card-stock holiday cards in lieu of Jib Jabbing my entire holiday list!  After creating the first few music-themed holiday videos, I realized I needed to scrub up my card list, as it was super time-intensive to make an individual greeting for each recipient, but after whittling the list down to a manageable 75 peeps, I got to work laughing and enjoying.

At the end of approximately 50 hours of jib-jabbing over a month-long holiday season, I came to the conclusion that one of the reasons I so love to Jib Jab is that is gives me the opportunity to really pay credence to the people I cast in the videos.  Most times they are friends, family members, and occasionally mere acquaintances, but always they hold some sort of importance in my life.  It's important to me to reflect on the connections I create and maintain and give them my undivided attention on a regular basis.  It's also necessary for me to laugh at myself and those I know, right alongside them.  Jib Jabbing allows me that freedom.

I heard from at least half of the people I sent Jib Jab cards to last year, either via phone, text, email, or personal visit.  Most LOVED the cards and in a few cases, some hated them to the point of asking me to use a more flattering picture of them next time.  But in all cases, they appreciated the time and energy I put into their individual holiday dance.  I so enjoyed the human connection! I have never received a personal response from a card stock holiday card in the past, other than an obligatory return card in the mail.

You should give Jib Jab a try this year; it's worth the $12/year membership fee (you can try a few for free before they ask you to subscribe).  And Jib Jab should be hiring me as their spokesperson!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Don't Grow Up

I keep thinking of the question presented to Meryl Streep in an interview asking her what advice she would give her younger self, now that she has so much life experience under her belt.  Her answer, as highlighted on a People Magazine ‘Quotes from the Stars’ page, didn’t particularly move me, something along the lines of she wouldn’t pay as much attention to how much she weighed, but the question keeps haunting me.

What would I tell my young self starting out, now having the adult perspective of how the world works and the various ways I’ve fit into it to date?  Hands down it would have to be to keep looking at the world through a young person’s perspective.  

The curiosity to learn about new ideas, people, places, and things.  The emotional immaturity that leads to the inability to hold back your thoughts.  The lack of judgement that lends to making mistakes.  The tender lack of life experience that allows you the freedom to say “I don’t know.” The sheer enthusiasm and devotion to pleasure.  The balls to think that you can change the world. 

Society tells us to grow up, pull it together, and settle down.  Think stability, commitment, procreation.  All incredibly important things.  But what about contribution, communication, and growth?  I think if we held on to more of our rose-colored young outlook on life we’d be better off as a society.  Learning doesn’t end at high school, college, or graduate school graduation….it’s  eternal if we’re lucky enough to keep an open mind.  When we stop looking for answers, we stop growing, period.  Yet there’s an interesting caveat attached to many when we stop learning.  The brain is shady, as it tricks us into believing we actually know everything since we’re no longer taking in new info.  We become self-proclaimed experts, and spend our lives digging our heels into the ground protecting what we think we know, instead of just opening our minds to hearing something new.

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - Don't Grow Up
Somehow we have bought into the idea that we have to fit into the traditional societal norms of ‘becoming an adult’ by achieving the same way our classmates do, loving the same way everyone else does, parenting the same way our neighbors do, judging in the precise fashion our family taught us to, and living our life in a way that is packaged squarely for show.  Who does that benefit?  Not me, not you.  It simply supports structure of societal norms that will keep on keeping on until it’s pushed to the limit and broken. 

So today, or this week, or maybe even this year, put on your pre-adult glasses, and look at your world and your life through a young person's perspective.  What do see?  What can you learn?  What do you have the courage to change in yourself and the world?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Quick Fix

Human instinct dictates that we find solutions to the problems and challenges that cross our path.  As we get busy in life, whether it be with work, pleasure, family, or otherwise, we tend to add speed to that problem-solving skillset, so that we can move on to the next issue. When the situations start to pile up, though, the quick fix, although convenient, is not always the right answer.  More often than not, the accumulation of snags is simply an indication to slow the hell down in order to identify the real issue at hand, instead of quick fixing the ancillary hurdles that arise because of it.

Most folks have a lifelong record of quick fixing their way out of boredom, unhappiness or unfulfillment by simply changing the scenery.  A trip to the mall for clothes or makeup “fixes” the dissatisfaction of body image.  A night out drinking alleviates the intensity of a broken heart.  A one-night-stand pumps up the fragile ego after losing a job.  Each knee-jerk reaction temporarily fills an empty space, but doesn’t really address the actual problem. 

Just this week I found myself considering buying a new car, adding a puppy or rescue dog to our brood, and planning a family vacation over Christmas.  Whoa, trying to cover up much?  I was quickly trying to address the feeling of discontent I had been feeling for the last few months, and most recently after having a knee surgery that didn’t yield the results I had hoped for, leaving me still somewhat maimed and in need of some self-care. Stuff the negative feelings down by adding more shit on top so there’s no room for it to breath.

That’s what we do.  New job, new relationship, new house, new cause, new kid, new friend, new hobby, new church, new life. None of it takes away what’s really eating away at the core, as the second that newness if over, the same old worry rears its ugly head, still alive and kickin.’

What happens if we take the time to really address the reality of the situation and own it, feel it, try it on for size, before trying to cover it up or stifle it?  It’s not very pretty.  In fact, allowing oneself to be vulnerable and acknowledging imperfection is a pretty freakin’ unnatural state of being, if you ask me.  It’s uncomfortable just being and not doing, not having the fixes lined up in your court.

But feeling powerless has its advantages too.  It opens you up to creativity, change, and sometimes just acceptance, as every problem doesn’t have an automatic solution.  It also helps fosters real human interaction, as typically when we’re in a state of true susceptibility, we don’t have the capacity to participate in mindless chatter or repeat the same bullshit stories we tell people about ourselves and vice versa.  It’s actually a pretty empowering place to exist if we can just let ourselves.

I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, is the anctedote to my current discontent.  Maybe it is actually a new job or a new way of living.  Or maybe I’m right where I need to be and that’s just got to be enough for right now.  But what I do know is that history has repeated itself enough in my lifetime to show me that the quick fix is not usually the most efficient route.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Put the Phones Away!

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Put the Phones Away
As I rode through the lake-front trail this afternoon, I was enamored by the cool breeze, expansive blue body of water lapping up against the rocks, and the thick lane of dragonflys buzzing to my right the entire ride.  And then I saw the family of 4 in the grass, sitting intimately in a circle of lawn chairs they'd hauled from home, facing one another....that is if their four heads weren't each buried in their own electronic devices!

Say what?  I thought maybe they were just a freak family, until I looked across the trail and saw another group, three little kids with two adults, thoughtfully seated cross-legged atop a checkered picnic blanket with only a bowl of fruit connecting them in the middle of the blanket, as each person had their own phone, tablet, or computer, going to town individually.

What has happened in our world to make this a normal scene?  What's the point of packing up the car or the bike or the backpacks to head to the lake with a group, only to interact only individually with a device?  Why not just stay at home?

We took our kids to our favorite breakfast joint a few weeks ago.  As the waiter walked away from our tiny table after taking our grub order, a table of 4 guys next to us asked the waiter to take away all the condiments on the table as it was too tight.  Two seconds later, each of the 4 men had their cell phones whipped out in front of them, each individually active on their own device.  Startled by the sight, I decided to survey the restaurant to see if this was normal behavior, and sure enough, whole tables of kids, adults, babies, and seniors were all busy jacking with their phones, without a word being spoken or a glance being given to their table mates.

Who in the Sam Hill decided that this is acceptable?  We wonder why our kids can't interact well with others or pay attention to anything we say.  It's because we're teaching them by example that zoning out on their own while in the intimate company of others is acceptable social etiquette.

Folks, put your phones away.  Nothing's that freakin' important or entertaining that can't wait a few minutes while you converse with your spouse or chat with your buddies or interact with your family or co-workers.  Is this how you want to be remembered by the person sitting across from you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get Your Money Back

Get Your Money Back - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
Living Large equates to living well within your means while thoroughly enjoying those thing in life that you love.  Making spending choices requires thought and consideration.  Once you've made a purchase, don't be afraid to change your mind.  When your money is on the line, you should be absolutely certain it's well spent. Whether its simply the wrong choice or an inferior product or service, don't be shy about asking for a refund.

Yes a return usually requires the extra step of contacting, visiting, or shipping items back to the company of origin, which keeps many from requesting a refund, but protecting your hard-earned resources is worth the effort in my book.  Sometimes you don't realize your purchase wasn't sound until well after the specified return timeline. Don't consider your money gone. It can often still be recouped. Case in point is my recent Quicken experience.

Spending within the boundaries of your income requires you to self-monitor, which starts with budgeting.  My long standing software choice for organizing my personal finances on a PC has been Quicken for Windows, made by Intuit.
Get Your Money Back - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder

As a PC owner, I've relied on Quicken for over a decade to accurately help me track, budget, and simplify my finances. Options such as manual entry or automatic downloads from financial institutions, quick pictures or detailed reports of current or projected financial status, and payment reminders or automatic entry make it super customizable.  While I still recommend Quicken wholeheartedly for PC users, my purchase of Quicken for Mac proved so substandard to its PC counterpart, that I don't even think there should be a charge for it.

I argued this point with Intuit recently and received a full refund of my purchase price, well outside of the 60 day refund period.  It took me 20 minutes to draft the letter, 5 minutes to research the address of the corporate office and a forever stamp and walk to the mailbox to process.  Completely worth the time and energy, not only for the actual money restored to me for an incompetent product, but in this case, to have my complaints and feedback ingested by the source.

If you dropped three Andrew Jacksons out of your pocket while walking, you'd take the time to zig zag back on your route to look for them in the name of being a decent steward of your money.  Do the same with your purchases.  If the product or service is not what you want, get your money back.  Otherwise you're throwing money away.