12 Days of Christmas Lunch Notes

January 2, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

12 days of christmas superlunchnotes

As with many of my ideas, this one started bright but with very little planning — certainly not enough to allow for the predictable unpredictableness of the holidays.

“I SHOULD DO A ’12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS’ SUPERLUNCHNOTES! I’M SO NIFTY & CREATIVE! AND I’M SURE I CAN THINK OF ALL TWELVE, SO THERE’S NO NEED TO PLAN THIS OUT VERY FAR IN ADVANCE!”

I was zipping along doing a note a day to culminate on Christmas Eve. But then my 7 year-old got sick. Then some work crises sprung up. Then I traveled to Texas for a friend’s funeral. Mix in all the seasonal insanity of shopping, decorating, planning — and for the first time in our new house — hosting, and that puts me here, on January 2nd, posting about Christmas. Right on schedule.

In my defense, my (after-the-fact) research shows that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is in fact about the days following December 25th, not those preceding it. Ergo, this post is actually a little ahead of schedule. Gold star for me. ⭐

Blah, blah, blah — here are the notes, along with a few notes on the notes.

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Remembering George Michael, Celebrating Freedom

December 26, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

George Michael

In 1990, I was deep in the closet, deep in the heart of Texas. I was in my fourth year (of five) at Baylor, sharing an apartment with three friends from my ultra conservative, evangelical, charismatic church. I lived in a bubble within a bubble within a bubble of repression and denial. And buried deep in my sock drawer were two CDs of the “secular” variety, hidden away like so much auditory porn. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 was great for walking the Bear Trail and driving around town with the windows down; but it was George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1 that filled countless hours spent in the painting studio, or that flowed from headphones as I silently lip-synched in bed.

I had plenty of other memories tied to George Michael’s music: awkwardly slow dancing to “Careless Whisper” in high school; “I Want Your Sex” blasting from a dorm window while parents (mine included) assisted their freshmen kids on move-in day; being mesmerized by George and Andrew’s legs in the “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” video.

But Listen Without Prejudice touched my soul in ways no other music had. It was Michael’s response to the well-deserved hype of Faith, choosing to downplay his image and focus instead on songwriting and emotion. In nearly every song, his longing for love and connection echoed my own. “Praying for Time,” “They Won’t Go When I Go,” “Something to Save,” “Heal the Pain,” “Soul Free,” “Waiting for That Day” (which included a snippet of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) — all resonated, and still do.

And then there was his voice. Michael’s voice — particularly on that album — is what I always wished mine sounded like, or imagined it would sound like in heaven.

The only time I saw George Michael perform live was singing “Freedom! ‘90” at the Equality Rocks concert in 2000. He’d only been out officially for a couple of years, so all of RFK Stadium celebrated the song’s newfound significance for Michael, and for our community’s burgeoning, well… freedom.

That song still gives me religion — true religion that comes from the abandonment of repression. A soulful experience of reveling in self-expression. Singing from the pit of my stomach that I am who I am, haters and self-hatred be damned.

Thank you, George Michael, for sharing with us your voice and your soul, your trials and your bliss, your longing and your freedom.
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Let me tell you a secret
Put it in your heart and keep it
Something that I want you to know
Do something for me
Listen to my simple story
And maybe we’ll have something to show

You tell me you’re cold on the inside
How can the outside world
Be a place that your heart can embrace
Be good to yourself
Because nobody else
Has the power to make you happy

From “Heal the Pain”

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Struggling or know someone who is? Call 866-488-7386 for The Trevor Project.

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‘Twas 10 Days Before Christmas: Playing Santa With Google Home

December 15, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, THINGS DAD DIGS

Whoever invented Santa Claus should be ashamed of themselves. As should all of us who have continually used him to leverage good behavior from our kids. And we bestow upon Santa all of these mystical powers and superhuman abilities, setting expectations at nothing less than Magical Candy Nirvana.

Then we, as parents, HAVE TO DO ALL THE WORK!

But instead of drowning your sorrows in hot cocoa, or stress-eating an entire roast beast, sit back and enjoy a holiday poem about a nifty device that’s been helping me make it through this crazy-making most special season.

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‘Twas ten days before Christmas, and all through my head
Every detail was spinning, filling me up with dread;
The stockings weren’t hung and the cupboard was bare,
Tho in a fortnight, fam’ly all would be there.

As a parent, I wear lots of different hats;
Chef, chauffeur, coach, doctor, and of course, diplomat.
Yet at Christmas I don the most stressful chapeau;
It’s red, and requires I say “Ho, Ho, Ho.”

Google Home helps parents play Santa

In addition to all my normal dad duties
There’s shopping and cooking, and trimming of trees,
And wrapping and boxing and lighting and stuff;
It’s enough to make any parent cry, “Enough!”

Does my kid still believe in St. Nick? Matters not.
That to-do list is now my list, and entails quite a lot.
So how will I tackle these tasks on my own?
And how will I do them sans bitch, gripe, or moan?

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Doodles, Diversity, & Lunch Notes

December 13, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Here we are at the end of 2016, and Holy Haircut, Batman! — it’s been a roller coaster of a year. I can’t recall a recent 12 months that contained as many highs and lows. Between the election and all the ugliness it exposed, the numerous police shootings of black men, and the Orlando nightclub massacre, it’s been an especially harrowing year for women, people of color, immigrants, Muslim-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and the LGBTQ community.

Yet through it all, there have been constants to keep me grounded: my family, feeding said family, and my love of superheroes. So the lunch notes were pretty constant, too.

Doodles, Diversity & SuperLunchNotes

Since starting this adventure three (!) years ago, I’ve tried to include a good mix of characters: DC and Marvel; comics and non-comics; human, animal, and whatever the hell Pokémon are. But this year in particular both inspired and challenged me to step up the diversity being represented in my son’s lunch notes.

Dude, they’re lunch notes. With cartoon characters on them. GET OVER YOUR ARTSY-FARTSY, DRAMA QUEEN, HOLIER-THAN-THOU SELF.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Uncommonly Good Dads

November 25, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Holiday Gift Guide for Dad

I’m often told that I’m difficult to shop for. Always on the lookout for just the right watch/shirt/shoes/socks/gadget/doodad/etc., I usually end up just buying things for myself. My assumption being that my long-suffering loved ones won’t find this special snowflake of a thing on their own. Luckily, my long-suffering husband has figured out a few places to successfully shop for me.

One of those places is UncommonGoods. Papa and I have been satisfied customers for over 10 years, and whether we’re shopping for family, friends, or coworkers, they never fail to surprise with their clever, well-designed, eco-friendly gifts.

For this year’s Holiday Gift Guide, I’ve searched UncommonGoods and put together a list of some of my favorites from their collections of gifts for men and dads (check out those full collections here and here). HINT: If you’re shopping for me, this would be a good place to start…

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Thanksgiving Evolution

November 22, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

It’s been quite a year of evolution for our little family. Between trips overseas, moving into a new house, and starting a new school, it’s been an exciting and eventful 12 months. Yet it’s also been daunting — facing down so much that’s new, and less and less that’s known. I’ve heard similar stories of big life changes causing children (and adults) to regress. They search for something comfortable and familiar in a wide, open field of uncertainty.

We’ve definitely felt it, seen it in one another. My newly minted 7-year-old experiences this the most. In addition to officially graduating from “big boy” to “kid” — and on top of a new house, new school, and new classmates — he’s also lost multiple teeth, grown multiple inches, and reads everything in sight.

When overwhelmed or insecure, my son’s default settings range from Silly to Ignore to Meltdown — sometimes all three within the span of a few seconds. This in turn triggers my default settings of anger, frustration, helplessness. Many times it’s damn near impossible to be the bigger person. Many times I fail.

But as seems to be my parenting mantra, I keep on trying. In attempts to empathize with all the transitions my little boy big boy kid is going through, I try to speak less; try to listen better; try to breathe more. And I try to do what he’s always needed the most from me — be there.

In organizing the new house, I culled several years’ worth of artwork and school projects. Among the mountains of crafts were these three masterpieces:

Thanksgiving Evolution

Created over the last three Thanksgivings, they are a gloriously fun study in artistic interpretation.

But they also serve as a reminder that time continues to continue; that it speeds by, leaving me stunned that I have a child who’s already been in school this long. It also shows that as each year brings new challenges, he/we keep coming out the other side slightly different, hopefully better. And with extra glitter.

This first Thanksgiving in our new surroundings brings new traditions along with it. But in the midst of the new and of change, I plan to soak up the familiar, appreciate the growing pains, and anticipate the next evolution.

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Take Time for Dad Fashion with JORD Wood Watches

November 13, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Jord Wood Watches giveaway

When I became a father, my priorities changed. I no longer had the time nor opportunity to do many of the things I deemed important pre-dadhood. Among those were sleep, basic hygiene, and wearing a watch.

I initially started going watchless* to keep from scratching my newborn when feeding and changing him. However, it quickly became more about protecting my timepieces from all of the pee, poo, barf, jelly, juice, snot, dirt and the myriad other substances that go hand-in-grubby-hand with childhood. As someone who goes by “Designer Daddy,” you can imagine this was quite a blow to my semi-stylish sensibilities.

Nowadays we’re past the diapers and puking (mostly), and my 7-year-old can hold his own juice and wipe his own butt (mostly) — so I’ve slowly been rebuilding my collection. But with so many other things vying for my attention, how does a dad find time to be fashionable?

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Frightfully Easy DIY Halloween T-Shirts

October 25, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Easy DIY Halloween t-shirt

Want to get your craft on this Halloween, but worried you’ll slice off an appendage trying to carve a Pinterest-perfect jack-o’-lantern? Then try these frighteningly fun, eerily easy DIY Halloween t-shirts!

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Kickstart Your Kids’ Love of Classic Lit With KinderGuides

October 16, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS

KinderGuides book giveaway

As both a designer and a daddy, I’m always on the lookout for exceptionally nifty children’s books. When I find one that’s also well written or has a unique concept, I count myself lucky. And if my son happens to really dig it, I know I’ve struck story time gold!

I’ve discovered some top-notch nuggets in KinderGuides — a book series that retells classic literature in kid-friendly* text and gorgeous illustrations. The imprint includes 4 contemporary classics — Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 2001: A Space Odyssey, On The Road and The Old Man and the Sea — with many more planned for future publication.

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Raising a Son in the Age of Trump & Rape Culture

October 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Donald Trump & rape culture

When I first read the words, I was sick to my stomach. It worsened as the coverage expanded, as I watched and re-watched the video and awaited the eventual (faux) apology. Nausea then gave way to disgust as I witnessed a serial assaulter attempt to shame his female opponent by exploiting the assaults of even more women.

Yet as this insanity unfolded, my greatest anxiety came from the question on repeat in my head:

How do I raise my son in the age of Donald Trump and rape culture?
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