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Monday, June 27th, 2011
I believe everyone has multiple personalities and different versions of themselves that they reveal based on their environment. But these multiplicities of ourselves ultimately are still built on top of one default personality. My default personality is amazingly similar to the character of Peter Klaven (portrayed by Paul Rudd) in my favorite movie ever, I Love You Man.
The movie focuses on Peter’s lack of ability to make and keep strong male friendships and the difficulty that means for him in trying to find groomsmen and most importantly, a best man, for his upcoming wedding.
Most of my guy friends are scattered across the country; instantly available via text message, but not for hanging out with on a regular basis. And I’m completely okay and comfortable with that. And interestingly enough, whether it was my female-orientated major in college (English), or every work environment I’ve been in since then, I’ve constantly been surrounded by women instead of men. And again, I’m completely okay and comfortable with that fact.
Even here on Parents.com, I’m the only male parent blogger. It is simply my life’s destiny to be a guy who relates to women almost as well as I relate to men. Need I remind you, it’s mainly women reading The Dadabase.
(Granted, my wife edits out anything too masculine or overly male-driven. Recently, she had me delete several paragraphs which went on way too long about the details of a Nintendo game.)
But now I have a son. A baby boy who will eventually grow into a big boy who will eventually grow into a teenage boy and eventually a man. This means that I will ultimately have a buddy.
I will always have a reason to get to do what I want to do with my free time, as long as Jack is with me. Because I will be spending quality time with him while I do what I enjoy anyway (or at least enjoyed in my youth).
Already, I’m mentally working on a list of things I will enjoy doing that also will serve as good male-bonding, quality time with my son over the next 2 to 20 years:
1) Watch the entire series of the following movies and TV series: Rocky, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Band of Brothers, and Lost.
2) Go hiking and exploring in the woods on the weekend.
3) Build awesome Lego sets.
4) Take our bikes for a long ride in a new neighborhood.
5) Have old school Nintendo game marathons.
6) Blow stuff up with fireworks.
7) If ever can ever afford it, take him on a trip to Thailand.
Of course, this is only the beginning of my list. But I really look forward to the underlying male friendship in my father-son relationship with him.
I am adamant on being Jack’s father, not his friend. However, just like how I mentioned in the beginning that we all have different personalities, I know that a father is not simply the paternal figure of his son’s life. Being a good dad means being someone to relate to and it involves a lot of mentoring. It requires good communication and quality time.
Being a father is like being a friend, but it’s so much more than that. Yet it’s paradoxically both more casual and more demanding of respect than simply being a friend. But even though I won’t refer to my son as my friend, I will gladly call him my buddy.
Man, now I’ve got the jingle to the 80’s toy, My Buddy, stuck in my head:
“Wherever I go, he goes… My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me!”
All pictures taken courtesy of Dave Stanley at Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama.
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1980's, Alabama, baby blog, dad, father and son, fatherhood, fireworks, Fort Payne, Fort Payne AL, friend, Harry Potter, I Love You Man, Lego, male bonding, multiple personalities, My Buddy, Nintendo, parenting, Paul Rudd, Peter Klaven, state parks, Thailand | Categories:
Growing Up, Home Life, Must Read, Story Bucket, Storytelling
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
For a nostalgic guy like me, it can be very difficult to “live in the moment.” And that’s not a good thing when it comes to being present in body, mind, and spirit as a husband and father. Not to mention, it’s sort of impossible for me to stop thinking about how I will provide for my wife and son.
In 1996, while most other 15 year-olds were listening to cool alternative grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, I additionally had something they didn’t have: a cassette tape of the first album by The O.C. Supertones.
You’re probably familiar with hearing someone say “I grew up really Jewish… bar mitzvah, the whole deal….” Even if it was simply Seth Rogen on Conan who said it, you understand the concept of “growing up really Jewish.”
Well, I “grew up really Christian.” I learned to play the guitar in Junior High because I led the music for my church’s youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Every summer I went on a mission trip to a different state or country, doing repairs on widow’s homes during the day, then participating in drama and singing performances at city parks in the afternoons. (Yes, I had a trendy W.W. J. D? bracelet.)
And while DC Talk was the coolest Christian rock band back in the those days, I also was a huge grassroots promoter of The O.C. Supertones- the main Gospel ska band of the ’90′s.
Last week as I felt like listening to nothing but all of their albums back-to-back, a line from their song “Unknown” stood out to me. I have been listening to that song for 15 years but it finally made sense to me at a time when I needed to hear it most:
“Killing ourselves faster than fast; living in the future, living in the past.” I haven’t been able to shake the thought of how constantly I do just that: I participate in the self-destructive behavior of either A) dwelling on how I should have/could have/would have done things differently in my past, if I was able or B) dwelling on how much better life will be a decade from now when my problems will hopefully have worked themselves out.
I realize that with all the positive vibes I constantly send out in my daily writings here on The Dadabase, I may sometimes make my version of being a dad and husband seem easier than it actually is. And perhaps it seems that Jack never causes any stress for my wife or I. But despite my optimism and quirkiness, my life is as normal as they come. I encounter the same basic stresses as all other dads and husbands.
Admittedly, I question some of my past decisions and actions. And I seriously wonder about my future; financially.
Since moving from our secure jobs in Nashville before Jack arrived, we now live on a much smaller single income, with a kid. Yeah, the thought of money stresses me out big time. Living here in Alabama now, I can’t provide for them the same way I used to. Money sure isn’t everything, but Nashville’s good economy definitely eased things in my mind.
As I am wired to do, I ultimately feel responsible for providing for my family. So I question the version of myself who a few years ago led me to make the decisions to get me here today. And I often fantasize about a future time when I won’t feel the stress that I am feeling now.
Of course, my making a habit of mentally time traveling is not a good thing. Because if I keep going back far enough, I may fantasize about a time when I had no real responsibilities and no family of my own. And it is nothing but counter-productive and selfish to subconsciously covet the 21 year old college version of myself who made money by selling egg rolls and Hot Pockets from the mini-fridge in my college dorm.
The weight of my responsibilities is constantly on my mind. Will I be able to care for my family? Am I good enough for them? Should I have gotten something other than an English degree a decade ago in college, so I could be assured I’d make enough money to be the breadwinner at age 30?
This is an honest, vulnerable look into a guy’s brain. I’m never unaware of my need to provide. Never.
Other men have greater or less financial concerns and decisions to make. But still, as men, we are perpetually terrified of the realistic demon who reminds us that nothing we can do is ever enough.
It’s a matter of reminding myself that that even the ravens, who don’t even sow or reap, who don’t have storerooms or barns, are still fed. And I am much more valuable than a bird.
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1996, Alabama, anxiety, baby, bar mitzvah, Bush, Christian, Christianity, Conan, dad, fatherhood, financial, Jewish, Nashville, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, The Supertones | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality, Storytelling
Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Week 18 (4 months).
“So take your lessons hard… and when your car crash comes don‘t be misled.”
Convince yourself that everything is alright, ’cause it already is.” – “For Nancy” by Pete Yorn
In last week’s cliffhanger episode, I closed by saying that I was counting on a miracle in order to remain in Alabama, knowing that our savings we had been living off of since December 4th would be running out in the next few weeks and that every door and window had closed for us regarding a long term job. And more importantly, I needed a job with good insurance, since there are 3 of us now. I avoid drama at all costs, but in order to be true to the reality of “dad from day one”, I couldn’t play down the real life happenings of coming to terms with the fact that our leap of faith may end with us moving back to Nashville, despite all our efforts to move to Alabama.
That was last Wednesday. It literally felt like my world was collapsing in on me, which I realize is no comparison to the literal collapsing that occurred in Japan last week, but still, it was the most intense thing I have ever lived through. Maybe a better comparison is that it was like being in a car wreck, where I was in the driver’s seat, running the car through a guard rail, causing my family to be flipped upside down a few times as the car rolled over, not knowing if we were looking up or down.
It helped me to literally understand the phrase, “hell of a week”. I never so literally felt such a heavy, demonic presence around me. Not like dark storm clouds and a violent storm; more like a silent, heavy overcast. It was so subtle, yet terrifying. I truly felt that my family was caught between two spiritual worlds- with one army that wanted us here and one army that wanted us gone. With that being said, there must be some serious unseen reason why my family should or shouldn’t be living here in Alabama.
But as I had always expected, the scarier that things got in my real life during this move, it would only make it that much more obvious when God miraculously provided for us. In order for this real life story to be more legit, it had to be obvious that it was no coincidence if things worked out in the end. I, the protagonist, had to be that desperate and completely dependent for God’s intervention. And I couldn’t just paint God as a genie who grants wishes. Also, like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, I had to be willing to give it all up. I had to become humbled more than I ever have before.
As I put it last week, “Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.” I could also compare it to that “bankrupt/million/bankrupt” wedge on Wheel of Fortune.
That was last Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later, in what felt like a loopy dream, I found myself in a job interview at the place I truly had my heart set on when I moved here. (Interestingly, this is not the position I referred to last week; this is something completely different.) It’s a Marketing position for one of the world’s largest playground equipment companies. I know it’s the perfect fit for me. Today I took my drug test, so unless there was something extra in the brownies last night, I start this coming Monday (March 28th).
But… the good news isn’t over yet. God is more creative than that for this story.
Something else happened in the past week that is pretty dang awesome. Something that I didn’t initiate. Instead, out of nowhere, I was approached. It’s bigger than just simply having one of my articles or “dad from day one” entries being published in a magazine. I don’t think it would be wise to give away all the details at this point, but just know that it involves me signing a contract, it will take “dad from day one” to a whole new level and audience, it means I will be teaming up with a major publishing company (in a regular paying gig), and it should officially begin within the next month or two…
So, that is what has happened since “Part 1″. What a week. Granted, I realize now more than ever, there is no where telling where anyone may end up for the duration of their lives. I honestly never would have believed that I would ever have moved back to Alabama, or more importantly, that I would ever want to. But as far as my own plans, I want roots again. I want solid ground. I want anchorage. I don’t want to even think about moving again.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if all this dramatic struggle is a necessary part of the story of “dad from day one”. With rare exceptions like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a strong plot is vital to build a solid story line- not to mention, it’s absolutely necessary for character development.
So, will we be moving Jack back to Nashville? With an exciting and fulfilling job starting Monday here in Fort Payne, a big secret “dad from day one” reveal coming up in the next month or so, and a juicy income tax return coming our way soon, I suppose it’s as safe as possible to say that we can keep our anchor down in Alabama.
It’s the ultimate irony that we moved to Alabama to settle down, yet it has been such an unsettling experience until now. And it’s pretty interesting, too, how these doors opened the very week that the winter season ended and the spring season began. Man, the symbolism. The dead of winter surrenders to the resurrected life of spring.
Please, God, let this good ending and new beginning be real.
“You got to go through hell before you get to heaven… ’Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay.” – “Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band
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Thursday, December 30th, 2010
During my first summer teaching English in Thailand, I took a week-long vacation to the magical island of Koh Samui, as referenced in the movie Meet the Parents (“Jack speak-a Thai?”). While there, I went to a highly promoted (via hand-painted street banners) Muay Thai boxing tournament. Inside the dimly lit warehouse-style building on the outskirts of legitimate commerce, I felt like I was part of the movie Bloodsport staring Jean Claude Van Damme. Afterwards, as a souvenir, I cut down one of the street banners advertising the event and hung it up in my college dorm at Liberty University the next Fall. Everyone who saw it laughed at the poor English translation: “Super and Real Fight”. I mean, it was a real fight, and I would say it was super as well, but for the fight to be super and real in the same adjective phrase just sounds funny. And that is why I couldn’t title this entry as “Jack’s First and White Christmas”.
In preparing our move from Nashville, TN to Fort Payne, AL (which is located between Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Atlanta), my wife (who is from Sacramento, CA) had asked me if it ever snowed in Alabama. Though the words “snow” and “Alabama” seem like they don’t go together at all, though do. Just like a lot of people don’t realize that Alabama actually borders the Gulf of Mexico and has several beaches, like Gulf Shores. I told my wife to expect it to snow a few inches, up to three times a year. And sure enough, as we woke up around 6 AM Christmas morning to feed and change Jack, we looked out the window to see large snowflakes falling steadily.
A couple of hours later, we drove 0.7 miles to my parents’ house to spend the day with them and my sister and her husband. Turns out, the snow didn’t stop falling and the temperature remained low. So the seven of us ending up staying the weekend together, being that the roads were iced over. One of the gifts my parents bought for Jack was a really cool wagon; ideally for when he gets older. However, when we started getting ready for bed on Christmas night and we were deciding where Jack should sleep, since we hadn’t packed his travel crib, I said, “Well, what about his wagon?” Not many people can say that their first Christmas was a white Christmas and that on top of that, that they slept in a wagon. But I guess it’s not all that strange, being that we were celebrating a holiday where a baby boy slept in a manger. We didn’t have a manger for Jack, but we did have a wagon.
Jack is swinging Christmas morning before we left for my parents' house.
We got snowed in.
Jack's presents from his parents.
Jack's presents from the family.
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The Four Generations of Shells: Baby Jack is the only Shell boy to carry on the family name.
Alabama, Atlanta, Away in a Manger, baby, Birmingham, Bloodsport, Chattanooga, Christmas, college dorm, dad blog, dad from day one, English, fight, Fort Payne, Gulf of Mexico, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jesus, Koh Samui, Liberty University, manger, Meet the Parents, Muay Thai, Nashville, parenthood, Sacramento, Thailand, wagon, White Christmas | Categories:
People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase
Friday, October 15th, 2010
It wasn’t until this weekend while visiting my parents in Alabama that I fully realized something: When Baby Jack is born, he will be the only male Shell (beyond me) to pass on the name, unless I eventually have another son. My mom was telling me how we will need to get a “generational picture” taken, including my grandfather (John Shell), my dad (Jack Shell), myself (Nick Shell), and Baby Jack. My dad only has one brother (Johnny Shell) and he only had daughters. And I have no brothers. So Baby Jack will carry on the Shell name, which translates in German as “loud and noisy”.
While the namesake is just that, a name, it still carries on an idea of the people with that name. Not only their bloodline and physical characteristics, but also a reputation of that name. When I think of what the Shell name stands for, I think of my grandfather (who I call “Paw Paw Shell”), my Uncle Johnny, and of course, my dad, because they are the three male Shell’s most closely related to me. They all work very hard, will do anything for the family, will not tolerate any b.s. or drama, are extremely down to Earth, have a passion for classic cars, prefer The History Channel over watching sports on TV, and will always choose the great outdoors over the city life because they all live in the wooded mountains (which is different than living out in the country, by the way).
Physically, male Shell’s are between 5’ 7” and 5’ 11” (no shorter, no taller), have dark brown or black hair, have a thin frame, have a fairly prominent nose (not noticeably huge, but never smaller than average), are known to show up at each other’s houses unannounced, and have a weak spot for Moon Pies. For me, there is just something about being “a Shell” that is distinguished. Not in a classy way like the Vanderbilt name, or Presidential like the Kennedy name, but it’s the idea that when you meet someone with the Shell name, you’ll never forget them. Shell’s stand out from the crowd. Not in a “loud and noisy” aspect like the name actually implies, but set apart in a sense that if you know one of us, you know all of us. And really, that’s how I imagine most families are.
It’s in a man’s heart to want to pass on the family name. Not just for the sake of legacy, but also because of pride. And while pride is typically a bad thing, when it comes to family, pride is a necessary staple. I am proud to be a Shell, and proud to bring another one into this world.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
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Alabama, American Baby magazine, baby, classic cars, dad, dad from day one, families, family, generations, German, great outdoors, History Channel, legacy, namesake, parenting, pride, sea shell, Shell, sports, Vanderbilt | Categories:
People, Storytelling, The Dadabase