Tag Archives: matthew coates

Battling Depression and Anxiety

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credit Anne Lowe on publicdomainpictures.net

Hearing the news of Robin Williams passing yesterday, which was most likely due to suicide, greatly impacted me.  As I watched countless updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I found myself  disturbed, inspired, saddened, confused, and upset.

As the world paused to remember this great and wonderful man who entertained millions, I couldn’t help but to reflect back on some of my experiences dealing with depression and anxiety just a few years ago.

At times I recall it so vividly and it seems that I was a completely different person at the time. When reflecting back it was as if I could float outside of my body and observe how different the person I am today differed from the person I felt subjected to be at that time.

While many medical professionals (and the public for that matter) like to treat symptoms or the effects of an illness, I have always been of the belief that it’s best to take a look at the root cause and how to fix it. To take a look at what I believe the cause was, it’s best if you understand my personality.  I’m a pretty intense guy and I tend to feel lots of differently emotions on a daily basis, so I may be the type of person that has a proclivity towards being anxious or depressed. This intensity can also mean very high highs as well, aka the roller-coaster effect.

At the time I had a rough couple of months financially. I’ve always been on a commission-type of income, from waiting tables in college, to marketing financial services to selling real estate. It seemed my marketing efforts to find clients were not panning out. And despite having a fairly successful 3  years in real estate, it seemed that the business had dried up.

“…how different the person I am today differed from
the person I felt subjected to be at that time.”

Now my self-employed friends might be able to relate to this better than most, but when you feel like you aren’t providing for your family the way you could or should be doing, it messes with your head. Gradually over a period of time I kept feeding myself subconscious negative messages, which only compounded and grew in strength. I eventually got to the point where I was scared to take any positive action to generate business, because I somehow knew that it just wouldn’t work out.

I felt like the world was against me, when in reality the world
doesn’t really care what happens to you. It merely conforms
to your perception of it.

My thoughts were incoherent and scattered. I couldn’t put things together in my mind anymore in a way that made sense, and I actually found myself intently having to think about what I was going to say before I said it, even in simple conversations.

Simple daily tasks became formidable challenges which I felt hopeless to overcome. My brain built up anything I would normally do habitually into something that was the equivalent of moving a mountain.

There were memories of me waking up in the morning, looking up at the ceiling, wondering why I would even bother getting out of bed. When I came home from work each day all I wanted to do was get back into bed, shut my eyelids and hope things would get better, although there was no reason to believe they would. What was the point? No one cares anyways and my life doesn’t make any difference. More than once my thoughts drifted to the pistol in my bedroom and contemplated just ending it all.

What a pack of lies.

The depression and anxiety impaired my ability to be a good parent and husband. Although I wanted to be with my boys and wife, I wasn’t really able to be there 100% mentally because I constantly had these negative thoughts in the background trying to stomp out any personal joy I may have experienced.

In social settings I felt I had to wear a mask, because who wants to have a conversation with someone that is wallowing in a river of self-pity? Looking back, I think some people may have known what I was going through.  Because when you feel something internally it’s very difficult to hide those feelings from others, as they generate a certain type of energy.

So what turned it around for me? 

I knew this wasn’t going to be permanent (even though it felt like it would) and that I could pull out of it , but I needed help because whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Through my church I located a psychiatrist who was able to prescribe some medication that would help alleviate the intensity of my negative, crippling thoughts, and “stabilize” me more so that I wouldn’t keep creating a deeper downward spiral. The doctor said i had Generalized Anxiety. Gradually over time the prescription worked, and eventually I phased off of the medication completely.

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If you know me, you know how much I love movies and am always looking to relate life experiences to them.  It kind of felt like Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie “Limitless”. And how he used the thought-enhancing medication to improve for a period of time, and once he was in a place where he felt he was comfortable enough to manage himself again, he weened himself off of it.

Remember, it is never too late to get help. There is always hope. You can start by calling the Suicide Prevention LIfeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their site at  suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Have you had any experiences with anxiety or depression or know someone that has? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

 

What’s Your Spend-Ability?

Credit http://discusseconomics.com
Credit http://discusseconomics.com

Trends and people’s behavior are fascinating. They reveal what people believe, what kind of action they take, and how they go about living their lives.  Looking at trends and behavior help us identify what is important to people, which is a reflection of who they are.

Recently I had a conversation with my wife Tia about how people spend their money that looked fitting to share with you. Now please understand what this post is NOT doing – judging. As a general rule-of-thumb it’s easy to make observations of others and less of ourselves, so please take the article in stride.

Entertainment

Take for instance that we have these friends who love to go to concerts and sporting events. They have season tickets to the Arizona Cardinals, and are constantly at one music event or another. Having a good time away from home on a consistent basis is important to them.

My wife and I fit a little different mold – we’d rather take that money and spend on a 1 or 2-day staycation for our family at a local resort, like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. There is just something we inherently value about down time and relaxation – doing nothing in a nice place.

We also value family vacations and leaving town completely to new destinations. To us it’s all about experiences, and less about the “stuff”/tangible items. The saying “you can’t take it with you” is very real for us, but what is left behind at the end of your life is the memories and experiences you have created with those you love.

Cars

Other friends choose to buy big fancy expensive vehicles, upwards of $50,000 or more, with all the upgrades known to mankind. And that’s great! Glad they see value there. To me, vehicles are a necessary nuisance. Something that can get you from point A to point B.  We have 2 vehicles, a 2011 Toyota Camry and a 2005 Dodge Caravan. While my wife is more than ready to trade-in for a nicer “mom-mobile”, she understands (thankfully) my view to wait.

The van is paid for and we still have about 2 years left on the car loan. What’s important to me about a vehicle is that it’s reliable and lasts a long time. One of the most frustrating things for me is vehicle maintenance. I feel like my life is passing me by when I have to go in for an oil change. Certain models require more maintenance, and interestingly enough, some very expensive vehicles require more maintenance. I guess that’s the tradeoff for image?

Houses

This is a big one for me, not only just because I am a REALTOR ®, but because it is THE biggest single expense for the average household. In the days before I got my license, our real estate professional pressured us into getting a bigger, nicer house than what we wanted simply because we could afford it. That didn’t sit well with me, and it still gives me a sinking feeling today. Not sure how other people think it’s in their place to tell me what I should and should not purchase.

As a result of not listening to that advice, we have never short sold or been foreclosed on. During the 2004-2006 Phoenix real estate market run-up many people got in over their heads & lost everything over the next several years.

So we live in a good, nice neighborhood. It’s not the fanciest or gated or on the water, but we enjoy it. We are happy with our standard of living, and having a manageable house payment allows us to do other things and not feel stressed out, especially because I’m on a commission-only income.

Savings

I’ve always been a saver, even when those around me would suggest I do different. I probably do it to a fault and overcompensate by saving and investing more than needed, but I value getting free at some point and do not wish to rely on selling homes or the government to support me. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later! As a result I am rarely put into a position that I “have” to make a sale , which serves no positive purpose to either me or my client.

Insurance

Most people are insurance poor. We know this because most of the time when we see people die prematurely on the news there is a gofundme site started to take care of final expenses. Life insurance doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive – go with term, which takes care of you for a specified period of time. Ideally you are saving & investing money that you can live on in the *likely* event that you live until retirement.

This doesn’t just go for life insurance, but health (which is the United States is a total mess but that’s for another post), auto, home, and disability. Most people don’t find this out until they need to file a claim and it’s too late.

Miscellaneous

I could site plenty of other examples like my friend who is the most frugal teacher on the planet, but loves sunglasses and probably owns a good 15-20 pairs of them. Another friend saves money to go on multiple Disneyland trips a year, because he values those experiences with his family.

Although my life isn’t perfect, I like to think it’s pretty darn close. People’s money habits tend to either enrich their life or make it tough to bear.

What kind of money habits do YOU have and what do you enjoy spending your discretionary income on? Please leave a comment below!

 

 

 

10 Tips for Family Road Trips

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Just got back from a 10-day road trip with my wife and 2 boys, aged 10 and 4. Although it was a really fun and enjoyable trip, we had our moments of high stress and anxiety.  Thought I’d whip up a post to share our experiences and hopefully provide a little wisdom to help those of you that are thinking about a road trip with your kids.

Everybody knows to take snacks, toys, and entertainment, but these are the things we found especially helpful this time around.

Some of the advice you may have to take with a grain of salt, say, if you have girls, or perhaps kids of different ages. But by & large, I’m hopeful that most of the points will be fairly universal in nature and will make sure your next road trip isn’t the last one your family will ever do!

1.  Space out the kids!

Driving a vehicle with multiple rows? If you can, space the kids on separate rows. Now I’m sure this’ll ruffle some feathers of parenting experts, but in our family, the boys get along so well that they manage to annoy each other incessantly. This is probably more important if the kids are not very close in age, and may have more of a tendency to fight if forced to sit in a fixed position for a long period of time.

If you have oodles of children this becomes more of a strategic placement issue – put the peacemakers between the arguers. This will understandably be more of a challenge, but I believe giving kids space in the vehicle will help keep them more well-behaved.

2. Earplugs are your (or the kids’) friend

Yes, I love my boys, but sometimes being in the passenger seat (not the driver’s seat because this would be dangerous), I just want to ratchet my chair back a little and nod off uninterrupted. Earplugs help to alleviate the high-pitched voices that come from the little people in the vehicle.

For kids, if you’ve got a reader, maybe that child wants to use earplugs so they can have a more peaceful environment.

3. Bribery works

With everyone is such close proximity, we suspend traditional no bribery parenting rules.  From 1st dibs on the iPod , to whether or not we go out for ice cream later, the fun stuff you want to do (and were already planning to do) easily becomes a reward for good behavior in the car or hotel.

4.  Pringles snack-sized container

Let’s face it – kids are smaller than us and thus, their bladders are smaller. So they are going to want to go to the bathroom more frequently. Stopping at a rest area every 30 minutes isn’t the most practical nor is there necessarily one available every time you need one, so what do you do?

We stop the caravan, get the kids out of their seats, and help facilitate a bladder-emptying session in an empty snack-sized Pringles container (in this case) while they remain in the vehicle. This could be whatever you have on-hand, but I’m just tellin’ ya, not a bad idea!

Of course, pull off to the side of the road safely and don’t flaunt what you are doing to traffic that may pass you.

5. Swap out drivers

Of course this will only work if you have at least one other driver in the family. What works best for us is to have each spouse drive equal (or close to equal) increments on the road. Instead of having one spouse do most of the driving, which usually burns them out, we like our drivers fresh and alert.

Try to change maybe every 90 minutes or so. This also lets the non-driving person do something they enjoy that’s a little less intensive, like browse the internet on their phone, read a little, or enjoy a snack.

6. Going to a beach?

Expect to have a sandy car. There’s not really any way around this. Even if you do a thorough job of rinsing off under the shower at the beach, sand grains will somehow find a way in to your vehicle.

Don’t sweat the small stuff – when you get back home just count on a  good car wash and vacuum of the interior.

7.  It’s NOTHING like a vacation without kids

You could go to the same place, do the same activities, eat the same food, but the experience with kids is a 180 degree difference entirely, especially if your kids are smaller or medium-sized.

This is because they typically need a lot of maintenance and attention, and since they aren’t oriented to new areas yet, may experience anxiety, confusion, or just have a lot of questions to ask.

We have the brainiest 10-year old on Earth (don’t we all?) , and he likes to ask 10,000 questions. Most of the questions we have no idea how to answer, but by golly, we sure try.

Approach your vacation with adjusted expectations.

8. Hotel Pool is a God-send

From the tiny 2 1/2-star Best Western to the 4-star beachfront fancy pants hotel, almost every place has a pool these days. When you’ve been traveling in the car for multiple hours at a time and everybody’s a little frayed around the edges, nothing “chills out” the whole gang like a dip in pool. That super-stressful time between check-in and dinner can be alleviated with some family splash time.

9. DVD Player

I never thought we’d be one of those families that had a DVD player in their vehicle. Time change – roll with the punches. We purposefully don’t use ours during any outing other than vacation time.  When we need to concentrate on driving through a new town, or one parents just wants a nap (see point 2), nothing quiets the vehicle quite like a favorite movie. For the record, we’ve played Frozen, The Lego Movie, and Wreck-It Ralph about 2,178 times.

10. Be Flexible 

We originally planned on driving from Phoenix to San Diego to San Francisco to Yosemite National Park to Provo and back to Phoenix.

Boy, that was ambitious!

Once we got to Yosemite we decided to revamp our travel plans? Why you ask? Because we were all burning out from road time. After three 6-hour car days, we couldn’t imagine 2 more plus a 11-hour drive home.

From Yosemite we drove back to San Diego, stayed another 2 nights, and were happy campers, literally.

Hope these tips were helpful.  What are your best travel tips for road trips with kids?  Please leave a comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Vacation Part 7 – Returning to San Diego

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After much debating about whether to proceed to Provo, Utah or Flagstaff, AZ (both GREAT 4th of July towns by the way), we decided to conclude our family vacation back in San Diego.

The primary reason revolving around the driving time. By going back down to San Diego, we concluded that we’d save a good 5-7 hours of actual driving time on the road. We could see that the amount of driving we had been doing had started to take its toll on the boys and myself. Tia thrives on this kind of stuff and wasn’t quite as affected.

So in the family’s best interest we headed back down to San Diego, a place we knew wouldn’t disappoint, and sure enough, it didn’t.

Before our final destination, however, we needed to have an overnight hotel stay somewhere in-between. It happened to be Bakersfield, CA. Not the most interesting of towns, but we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott (review here)  in a decent area, had access to a pool, and managed just fine.

The next day we were fortunate enough to hit rush-hour traffic in the Los Angeles area (sense the sarcasm). I’ll never look at traffic the same way again. What should have been a 3 1/2 hour drive to San Diego turned into about 6. I kid you not. And oh, the traffic patterns drove me bonkers! Would be going 40 mph for awhile, the all of a sudden had to slam on the brakes because everyone else in front of us did. Once we started getting a move on again in a comfortable rhythm, we were surprised that never was there a car accident. Why do Californians all of a sudden seem to hit the brakes at once? Something I’ll never understand.

And then the law that ok’s motorcycles to speed in-between cars. This is illegal in Arizona, so when it happened to us about 20 times during the duration of our time in California, you can imagine how surprised we were to see it happen so much.

So we arrive at our hotel in San Diego – the Manchester Grand Hyatt( click here for review). We have stayed here at least 3 other times in the past, and been highly satisfied. The first being a company trip we won when I was active with Primerica Financial Services, probably 10 years ago. During that time we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together, and I remember struggling to make the decision to buy my wife an $18 souvenir in the gift shop of the hotel. How times have changed.

Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt
Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt

So we arrive, check-in, and decide to get out to see what we could see in the area. Hit up this restaurant called Pizzeria Mozza (click here for Yelp review) and were very happy with their product & service. The pizza was too fancy for Miller however, who didn’t like “very good” pizza, only “pretty good” pizza.

Waiting line at Donut Bar
Waiting line at Donut Bar

The next day we got up and had to get over to this place we had been hearing so much about, the Donut Bar (review here).Took a cab since it was a mile from our hotel and ended up waiting a good 30 minutes, probably because it was the 4th of July and no one was working. After questioning whether we had made the right decision, our fears were removed when we got in the store and consumed some of the yummiest donuts known to mankind.

Donut Bar options
Donut Bar options

Next we catch a cab back  to our hotel and decide to cruise around Seaport Village, an outdoor shopping and dining experience on the water. Being the attraction that it is, lots and lots of people were out for the holiday and we had a marvelous time strolling, people watching, walking by all the shops and vendors who had tables set up in the grassy area on the east side including card reading, rock stacking, sales of art, and so on.

My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village
My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village

You’d think I would be tired by now, but no, the fun continues. Oh, did I mention that this is all happening during the time that the Little People of America are having a conference in the hotel? Yes, indeed. My sons ask lots of questions about little people and we do the best we can to answer them, while teaching them proper etiquette as well. It was truly an educational experience for both the parents & the kids.

The 4th floor pool of the Hyatt is a subject in and of itself. We come out ready to swim and the area is surrounded with lounge chairs, fire pits, servers, games for kids to play, and lots of cool desk space. And did I mention the amazing views of the bay!! We absolutely loved the setup. Kind of like a large-scale party, only without all the college students. Haha. After not too long later, since I have fairly sensitive skin and a month prior had a layer of basal cell carcinoma removed, I head back to my hotel room to charge my cell phone, since it was ready to die. This also give me a chance to “recharge” my personal batteries, since I am after all, an introvert at heart.

Catching up on some internet & email, Tia keeps me posted as to what is happening with the kids. I head back to the pool area, refreshed and ready to take on the world, and sweetheart that she is, has already ordered dinner for me, which I promptly delve in to.

That night is the 4th of July fireworks – the moment we had been waiting for. And what better way to experience them than in our own private hotel room overlooking the bay! Up on the 23rd floor, we watched, photographed, and filmed the show, and I gotta tell you – it was really a blast! Didn’t deal with traffic or crowds ,but it was fun watching them make their way out of the area after the show ended.

 

The next (and last) day we ate breakfast at the hotel’s buffet restaurant, called Lael’s*. What a treat this was! And then it was time to check-out and head back home to Chandler, Arizona.

Until we meet again San Diego! Although next time we’re going to get out on on a boat….

Coates family at Seaport Village
Coates family at Seaport Village

Have you seen to San Diego recently? Please share your experience below!

Family Vacation Part 6 – A Deeper Look at Yosemite National Park

994453_10204425976119238_6363276288437686513_nToday my family drove from Sonora, CA to the Yosemite National Park.

At first glance it reminded me a lot of Flagstaff, AZ. There were trees everywhere and it was so lush and beautiful, but deep down I wanted more. As we got further in to the park I started getting my wish.

Grand views of hundreds of pine trees below the road we were traveling inspired an immediate “wow” response. It was like a small Grand Canyon of God’s greenery before us as we kept on driving. Seeing huge mountainous rock formations that dwarfed even the tallest person made me realize how small we really are.

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As we made our way through the 1,190 square mile park we started making observations. It was incredible how many people flock here from all over. We saw hundreds of people doing everything from hiking, to biking, to setting up a camp site, to fishing. And every one of them looked like they were having a good time.

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Any why wouldn’t they? They were disconnected from their usual environment, on vacation with their families, creating memories. Although we only took a couple of hours at the park while passing through to our next destination, I’ve heard it’s common for people to spend an entire week in the area.

While I confess that I was a little short-fused that I couldn’t get decent cell phone coverage for the duration, it would have been nice had we isolated there for maybe a day or 2 and instead of connecting with electronics, connected with nature.

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People were dressed to the 9’s for the great outdoors. Hiking short and shorts, bikes with baby carriers, hats, & sunglasses were among some of the accessories spotted.

I find most people have a “draw” to a certain type of natural environment. For example, my wife Tia is drawn to the water (specifically the ocean). She blames it on her Pisces nature, but when she is before a great body of water, she feels a calming presence and connectedness to a higher power.

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For some time I have wondered what kind of setting that might be for me. In some ways Yosemite reminded me of going to the Coates family cabin in Prescott, up in the woods away from civilization. While I do feel a sense of tranquility in this type of environment, I don’t know if that heightened sense comes over me the same way it does my wife at the beach.

Bridalvail

Whenever I’m snow skiing, sometimes I get a glimpse of this kind of feeling shooshing down the slopes or looking at a snow-capped peak from a distance.

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Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on the subject, but perhaps it is the plains (maybe somewhere in the Midwest) that would create that same feeling.

Where do you feel most at peace? Maybe it’s at your home, a favorite building, near a mountainous region, or just being with your closest friend. Please share below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Family Vacation Part 5 – San Francisco: Exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Ghirardelli Square

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Today we woke up ready for adventure!

Being well-rested we felt confident enough to tackle the areas of Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Chinatown in San Francisco.

As we walked from our hotel, the Sir Francis Drake (full TripAdvisor review here), we noticed that almost literally, there is a Starbucks on every corner in San Francisco.

We had a light snack in our room for breakfast, so were on the hunt for  something a little more substantial.

Entrance to Chinatown
Entrance to Chinatown

As we walked towards Chinatown, we tried to figure out which street that sloped upwards was less severe. They all seemed pretty steep, so, we kept walking through Chinatown.

On the way to grab a bit we passed Zoltar, the famous carnival 10383882_10204411212190149_4219707365042116805_nexhibit from the movie Big, where you put money in and Zoltar sends you your fortune.   The highlight of mine was “you change your sky, not your mind”, and wonders what deeply-held beliefs I may be clinging to. I couldn’t arrive at an answer.

We stopped at a Chinese pastry shop and I tried the moon cake, a doughy-sweet and very heavy-tasting pastry I thought we decent, but didn’t hold a candle to a traditional donut.

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Outside of the shop was an old man playing some kind of instrument I couldn’t identify. I asked him and the cashier who sold me the pastry, but to no avail. The language barrier didn’t allow us to communicate in that manner.

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Our next experience was on the trolley. Do you call it a ‘trolley’ or a ‘cable car’? Anyhow, we did that down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and I caught an opportune photo of Miller en-route.

Miller wasn’t crazy about having to sit next to people he didn’t know, and his face during that portion of the ride reflected that feeling. We had a brief chat with him after exiting the trolley about his facial expressions around strangers, and then moved on.

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During this time I really started to appreciate not having a schedule or itinerary on this day. Just strolling, doing as we pleased, not having any kind of agenda, just seeing what the day held.

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Then it was over to lunch. We opted for Alioto’s Restaurant (full Yelp review here) and then headed over to Ghirardelli Square, but not 10453438_10204411217990294_6801203813580011250_nbefore having a leisurely stroll, looking at a couple of huge ships, snapping a few photos, and enjoying each other’s company.

While there we ate some of their delicious ice cream, although I was surprised that Ghirardelli Cheesecake could not be ordered there. I had grown to love that after working at the Olive Garden for so many years during college.

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After that we came back to the hotel, and Toby made the comment that it was his first taxi-cab ride. We opted to avoid the trolley since the lines were so long, and ended up being pleased with the decision, as the cab ride was a mere $10 – saving us probably 30 minutes at least.

Have you been to the Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Ghirardelli Square areas of San Francisco? Please leave your comments below about your experience. Look forward to hearing from you! 

 

Family Vacation Part 4 – Walking Around Downtown San Francisco at Night

Downtown San Francisco

We pulled into San Francisco last night for phase 2 of our family vacation. Interestingly enough we happen to get to town on the same day that Pride Day was scheduled, so needless to say that we hit some major traffic and saw some fascinating characters on our way to the hotel.

Once we arrived at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (TripAdvisor review here) , we checked in and got a bite to at at Lori’s Diner, a fantastically delicious greasy spoon set in the 1950s.

After that back to the room to relax a bit, check email, and then get ready for Tia & my first vacation date night alone without kids. We arranged a babysitting service to come to the room and watch the boys.

We headed out with our mission being to find a dance club that caters to the late 30s/40s in age that had a DJ who plays 80s/90s/hip-hop music. After searching Yelp on our phones and doing some preliminary research (which i had also done in our room), we decided that this place called The Cellar was where we needed to be. We arrived around 9:30 pm. You guess it – too early. The staff said the place didn’t really get going until about 11.

Leaving slightly discouraged, but with full-intentions to return later we started our walk back towards the Union Square area, which was just a few blocks near our hotel.

We stopped in front of a heart-shaped fixture that signified Frank Sinatra’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and took a quick selfie. Unfortunately Tia was less than satisfied with it so deleted it.

The remainder of our evening consisted of basically people watching.

One notable gay couple we saw during our drive into town were 2 men literally naked from head-to-toe, with the exception of footwear and some kind of sock-like covering for their genitals, and only their genitals.

At night people were out in droves, despite it being Sunday. We saw a large group of young Asian males (20s) lively in conversation, a couple in their 60s walking around holding hands,  a group of 30 something white males making lots of noise at a crosswalk while bantering to each other,  probably more gay couples walking the streets than straight ones, and a mid-50s couple from India.

We probably heard bits and pieces of most major languages in passing other visitors and residents on the streets.

View from our room at the San Francis Hotel
View from our room at the San Francis Hotel

Diversity is certainly at its finest in San Francisco, the true melting pot of the United States (no disrespect to Chicago or New York City).

Around 10:30 we decided to get a night-cap at the bar in our hotel. It was lovely to just sit, have a drink with my wife, discuss the plans for the rest of the trip, and then turn in.

We didn’t make it back to the club. I know Tia would have gone, but this guy tires easily and is actually an old man at heart.

What are your thoughts about San Francisco at night? 

 

Family Vacation Part 3 – Legoland California Resort (A Review of the Park)

Legoland

On Friday I took the family to the Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, CA. Toby is 10 and Miller is 4 so we figured these are the perfect ages to get them introduce to the park. That, and they are pretty big Lego fans, especially the older one.

Please note that we did not get to all of the features/rides/experiences at Legoland, and thus I suggest you treat this as a partial review. I will only be discussing components of the park that we personally had experience with.

We arrived around 10:15 am and promptly mapped out our route for the day.  Our first impressions were very positive – colorful, well-decorated entrance, a beautiful courtyard/entry area, and all the right things you need when you enter an amusement park, like stroller facilities, the big Lego store, and somewhere to buy something to eat & drink.

First thing we did was to buy our younger son a Lego hat from the big Lego shop, since he accidentally left his in the van that transported us from our hotel – it was $15. Gotta stay sun protected since you are outdoors all day.

Lego Movie ExperienceLego Movie Experience

We proceeded in a northwesterly direction and came upon the Lego Movie Experience. This exhibit alone was a top-notch experience. Imagine yourself walking around the dad’s basement in The Lego Movie, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It had everything from Lord Business’ supertall ominous building (the Octan Tower), to Star Wars, to the Old West. I wished that they would have given the Clock Cuckoo Land exhibit more space and attention, however. Probably took at least a dozen pictures here. Outside we were able to get pictures with a life-sized Wyldstyle and Emmet.

Water WorksWater Works

After that we stumbled upon Water Works interactive music feature.  This was actually one of the main highlights for me personally. You and your kids can hop around and trigger musical instruments to play a delightful medley of sounds fit to dance to, and believe me, our little guy did exactly that.

 

Kid Power Towers

Kid Power Towers

Next we were off to the Kid Power Towers. Did this with my 10-year old and we waited about 10-15 minutes in line. It’s similar to one of those rides in say, Zombieland, where the characters are attached to a cylindrical-shaped vertical structure and thrust up in to the air. Wasn’t that extreme though, what happens is that you pull yourself up to the top by pulling on a rope, and have the ability to let yourself come back down a few inches at a time. Lasted maybe 5 minutes or so and was an enjoyable and fun experience where you could get a bird’s-eye view of the park.

Sky Cruiser

Here’s my biggest complaint of the entire day. The wait-time at Sky Cruiser was ridiculous! We clocked it at 53 minutes. Seriously?! The only reason I followed through was because my 4-yr old was begging me. What helped was that while parents waited in line, the kids could enter a Lego play area, and keep themselves occupied. The ride was nice and fun, but only lasted maybe 3-4 minutes, literally. The wait time on this ride was a real downer.

Lego Club House Lego Club

Liked this one – it’s a place similar to The Lego Store where kids can go and build Legos out of a bucket, hang out, and do their own thing. My boys loved it, but because lunch was quickly approaching we weren’t able to spend very much time here.

Fun Town Hot Dogs

Ate lunch here, and of course, the entree was hot dogs. Pretty good – we ordered 2 hot dogs for the adults, an adult-sized beverage, and 2 “kid packs”, that included a hot dog, chips, and a drink. $29 was definitely a fair price considering Legoland has a monopoly here.

Fun Town Police & Fire Academy

We had a blast here! Only waited about 10 minutes to get on. It’s actually a race between you and 3 other families. You get on a police or fire vehicle, “pump” your way to the scene of the fire, get out and spray water at the fire until the bell sounds, and then back to your vehicle and speed back to where you started. We finished 2nd out of 4, but were curious how another family beat us that didn’t seem to be pumping their vehicle as hard. Oh well, it was a lot of fun.

Fun Town Stage Performance

As we were walking to our next venue, we had the opportunity to listen to a group of young girls performing the song “Roar” by Katie Perry. My wife is a trained musician, and listened intently for the quality of the vocals. First of all, one of the main soloist performers was out of breath, which could supposedly be expected when you are both singing and dancing. But it wasn’t just that. The other performers were not in the same key with each other or the background music.

Miniland USA

Star Wars - the Hoth System
Star Wars – the Hoth System

Miniland USA was by far one of the best parts of the entire park for me personally. The amount of Legos used and attention to detail, and expansiveness of these displays boggles the mind. I found myself standing in front of many of these exhibits for minutes at a time. An absolutely incredible visual experience. Legoland Miniland USA

Most notable was the entire Star Wars section, Las Vegas, New York, and Washington DC. Legoland gets extra points from me on these ones

Caricature Artists

Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)
Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)

Throughout the park there are places where an artist will paint a caricature of you, your kids, or your entire family. We had our boys drawn as Lego people and surprisingly they sat still for a good 10-15 minutes while it was being done.. The artist did a wonderful job capturing some of their most unique facial features. We also had it framed. Cost about $70 and the company is called Kaman’s Art Shoppes. I was happy to pay the fee.

Coast CruiseMount Rushmore

This is a must-do in my opinion. Had a little bit of the feel of the “Jungle Cruise” at Disneyland, but with Legos, of course. It seems there are Lego creations that you can only see well if you go on the cruise, which makes it somewhat exclusive. We got right on and were very happy with our tour guide, the sound system, and the incredible Lego creations we were able to observe.

Dino Score Games

My son bought a bucket of ping-pong balls for $10 and the family shared in trying to get a ball in those hard plastic dishes that float around water for a prize. We won 1 medium stuffed animal and 1 small one. It was fun.

Matthew Coates Basketball Minion

I played the basketball game and was given 4 balls/chances for $10. I made the 2nd shot and won a really cool plush Minion (about 3′ high) from Despicable Me.

The Big Shop

Once you finish at the park this is one of those “must do” places where you buy your kid something to take home. Options galore, well-staffed, and lots of great eye candy.

Final Items & Notes

We were there 4 1/2 hours total, and all pretty exhausted when it was over. We aren’t one of those families that can stay an at amusement park for 8 hours. We did what we wanted to do then left happy, not worn down and ready to hit our beds.

One of the things my wife did was to write our cell phone numbers on our kids’ tummies. This way if they get lost they could show them to the park authorities and we would be contacted.

The water fountains are really low-flow and we were a little agitated when we tried refilling our water bottles.

The restroom facilities are state-of-the-art and kept in tip-top shape. They even have short sinks for little guys & gals.

I refuse to pay $3.62 for a 20-ounce Powerade, but that’s just me

It was a lot of fun watching Miller put together his first Lego set ever. We’ll be back.

Overall Legoland California Resort rating 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Have you been to Legoland? Please feel free to leave your comments about the park below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Bit About Me & My Background

My name is Matthew, and I do prefer Matthew, not Matt. Although I’ll never correct you. I live a comfortable and generally happy life – I’m 38 years old, married, have 2 boys, drive a Toyota Camry, own a home, and work as a self-employed real estate agent in Chandler, AZ.

I’m an Arizona native – born in the small town Page (up north, practically Utah) and grew up in Glendale, AZ. This was no doubt my hometown. I married when I was 22 to my college sweetheart and we lived in west-central Phoenix for a few years in a cockroach-infected apartment, right near Metrocenter Mall. In 2000, we bought our first home in Chandler, AZ had our first son, Toby, in 2004, and then moved again in 2009, where we had our 2nd child, Miller.

Have seen a lot during my lifetime, and while I’m not the wisest guy on the block I know a few things. The purpose of this blog is to share my life experiences with others, for laughs, learning, inspiration, a good time, and deep thought. I remember watching the film “Julie & Julia” with my wife a couple of years ago, and how uplifting it was to watch Amy Adams’ character do what she did via blogging.

Matthew Coates family picture

While I don’t claim to be an Amy Adams, I will be delivering content on a regular basis, and some people will read it, some won’t – AND THAT’S OK. I’m not going to sweat it. In blogging for my real estate business I have actually come to really enjoy it. Who would have thought?

I’m a college graduate, in a business career, raising a family, do the best I can, yet I have developed a “draw” towards putting my thoughts and feelings on paper (or, on a website if you want to be technical). According to most of my friends, I should be “too busy” to entertain anything like this. But although that may be the case, as anyone will also tell you, you’ll fit in whatever is important. And so that’s what I’m doing. That and compartmentalizing  my thoughts and life into this blog for your education and entertainment. I’ve started delegating certain tasks so that I can do more sharing with the world.

Not to get too off-topic, but generally everyone today does what they are “supposed” to do, but very few do what they “want” to do. Perhaps I have made enough prior good decisions to allot myself this luxury. I do not take it for granted.

I live my life the best I can, and I absolutely love my life. I work hard and play hard and give back when possible. I am transparent and direct with people, which isn’t always the most comfortable, but I believe it is the right way to live for me.

So what inspired this website? First of all, I am an introvert. Most people perceive this as meaning one who doesn’t like to be around others and is shy & reserved. One of the things I found out about introverts is that we like people, we really do, it’s just that we draw strength, creativity, and comfort when we are by ourselves. I like a good party as much as the next person, but if you stick me in front of 15 people at once and put me on the spot I’m going to be a little timid!

The site is a way for me to express those thoughts & feelings that in certain situations it’s better to just hold my tongue and diary them later, but also free me to express things I think about, am concerned over, and keep me up at night. As well as the fun & enjoyable, things that make me laugh, smile, or wonder.

Over time, I hope to learn a little bit about each of my readers, what motivates you, inspires you, makes you angry, sad, and so on. Look forward to starting that process now…