Exactly five years ago this very moment, on October 5th, 2006, I met my wife. And that’s exactly what I intended to write about today. I was going to explore how differently our lives would be today if that fateful night at a taping of a CMT show never brought us together and ultimately, how Jack would not be here today as the star of The Dadabase.
But instead, I’m psychologically processing the fact that this is a picture of our recently water damaged living room in our townhouse which we are supposed to be moving back into this weekend. God bless this mess:
And this is actually one of the tamest pictures. The rest are saved on a friend’s digital camera to send to our insurance company, State Farm. But I don’t have the right cord to upload them to my laptop tonight.
Truly, I am the kind of person who avoids drama at all costs. Some people are wired for it, like the people on Facebook who seem to constantly attract romantic partners who are destined to cheat on them. But not me. I duck out every chance I get when it comes to the mindset “why does it always rain on me?”.
Is it “the blogger’s curse” that I am experiencing?
In a cosmic effort to make sure I always have something interesting and relevant to say, must I feel compelled to move back to my hometown in Alabama only to move back so that I can learn to manage my finances better, then literally on the move back to Nashville have one of our cars break down so that we have to buy a new car, only to find that a few days after our renters moved out of our townhouse, that there was a loose washer on the upstairs toilet, causing my thousands of dollars worth of water damage?
Thank God our insurance policy was written up right before this happened and that our deductible is only $500. That goes well with the unexpected $250 I had to pay for two new tires on my car last week because I evidently ran over two nails in the road and the day of work missed last week when my wife was sick.
I get it that that trying times like these only mold us into more mature versions of ourselves. And I totally I am obsessed now with budgeting and saving as much money as I possibly can in every way. So really, I’m over this whole “life lessons” thing for a while. I would love a mental break.
We (jokingly?) said to each other if only pot were legal, tonight would be the night to try it. But then again, we’ve said that inside joke to each other more times than we can remember, throughout all the other challenges we have faced during these past few months.
In this moment, I am not seeking life lessons of self improvement and maturity. I’ll settle for mediocre and immature. Maybe I should start watching reruns of Two and a Half Men.
We are strong and we will soldier on. We may be lost and holding hands, but we’ll find out way out of this mess. It helps that Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” has been playing on repeat in my head all day. (“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell but I won’t back down.”) My wife is taking this so much better than she should and I think she’s dealing with it slightly better than me. I am so blessed to have her and our son.
Our house will be repaired with enough (insurance) money; hopefully. But my wife and son are beyond priceless. Thank God for them.
*Editor’s note: I am letting my wife sleep instead of making her correct today’s Dadabase post; considering the circumstances. So do me a favor, leave me a comment for any typos or punctuation errors that you find and I’ll take care of them. Thanks!
Is there such a thing as “free time” after becoming a parent? When can a new mom or dad find time in the week to just simply chill out together in peace and quiet; or even more difficult, be able to participate in their beloved hobbies that reflect who they are as individuals?
Other than daddy blogging, I also enjoy playing guitar and writing songs (though that hardly ever happens anymore). But the hobby that is a bit less sporadic in my schedule is simply exploring, whether it’s via hiking or mountain biking.
In his book, Daddy Dates, author Greg Wright perfectly describes why “exploring” is a solid hobby of mine:
“It’s the way guys operate. Exploration amps us up. There is this moment when curiosity rules and you get kind of jazzed and you think, ‘I wonder what’s in there, this is so cool!’ You’re going to figure out how to get around that mysterious place because you’re motivated by some instinct of discovery.”
While in California last month, I found a few 90 minute nuggets where I could slip away virtually unnoticed, amidst all the family. I snagged a mountain bike from my mother-in-law’s garage, then went exploring along the Sacramento River.
I ended up accidently discovering the neighboring 15 acre community of Locke. The Chinatown, settled alongside the river, was built in 1915. These days, it resembles a closed down, but kept up, exhibit at the Epcot Center. I read on Wikipedia that most of the original Chinese population of the town moved out to Sacramento and that today only 10 Chinese-Americans remain residents there.
See, that’s the cool kind of find I’m always looking for when I go exploring. My favorite part of the expedition was finding a Buddhist church. In Thailand, Buddhist temples were everywhere, but never a church. Weird and cool.
As far as finding and/or making time for myself and my hobbies, it takes creativity. There’s that strategic balance of being a good husband, a good dad, and still getting some “free time” anyway I can. Even now, as I write this, it’s 11:08 on a Monday night- my wife and son are sound asleep; I’ll be waking up at 6 AM to get ready for my “real job”.
My free time often translates as “time when I’m the only one awake,” as well as, “time during which most normal parents would be asleep if they had the chance.”
I’m one of those people who functions strangely well on less than six hours of sleep each night. If I wasn’t, The Dadabase would be on life support right now.
On Thursday, October 5th, 2006, I looked across a large, crowded room and saw a beautiful 25 year-old girl who had no legitimate reason to be alone. In that wishful moment at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, I thought about how wonderful life could be if I could get that beautiful Puerto Rican stranger to fall in love with me. Turns out, she wasn’t Puerto Rican; it also turns out, she did fall in love with me- but it took exactly four months to the day for her to see me as more than just a friend.
Without knowing it, I applied a long-standing business principle of billionaire Warren Buffet, as explained in his son Peter Buffet’s book, Life is What You Make It:
“The idea is elegantly simple. Find something the world underappreciates, support it, don’t meddle, and allow time for the world to catch up in its valuation.”
I basically can’t stop obsessing over that very true concept. It doesn’t just apply to business; it appears to life in general.
How did a guy like me end up getting a girl like Jillanne Tuttle to fall in love with me? More importantly, why was this girl still even single, anyway?
Because she was underappreciated. So I supported her. And I didn’t meddle. Needless to say, it worked. That’s the only way I could have gotten a girl so out of my league like that.
I ignored the bad advice of well-meaning guy friends who tried to tell me I should come on strong and ask her out on a date from the very beginning. Instead, I privately vowed to be her friend first, not meddling with our friendship. Then interestingly, on February 5th, 2007, a switch flipped; she finally saw me in the romantic way that I had seen her from day one.
Is it crushing to my ego that she didn’t immediately fall in love with me for my weird and random conversations, not to mention my physical likeness of a plethora of Jewish actors such as Fred Savage, who played Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years? (Featured right, with his son.)
Not really. Subconsciously I knew back then that if I were to truly capture the attention, as well as, the heart of this girl, it would take more than all the culturally valuable assets I didn’t possess.
The truth is, I happened to be the right guy in the right place at the right time, making a conscious effort to invest in a person who others foolishly overlooked. So I made the most of it. Thank God it worked.
That same principle is how The Dadabase was born. I realized there was all kinds of information for moms-to-be, but not for dads-to-be. So a few weeks after we found out we were going to have a baby, I decided to start a weekly blog from my fatherly perspective. Sure enough, that was sort of a rare thing- unique enough that American Baby took notice in their magazine in October of last year.
And when Parents.com started asking around in their search for an official daddy blogger, I happened to be the right guy in the right place at the right time, because their sister magazine American Baby had featured my blog on page 13 of their issue just five months before.
In other words, I found something the world had underappreciated (parenting advice and narration from the dad’s perspective), I supported it, I didn’t meddle, and the world began to catch up in its valuation.
As for using this concept in parenting, I’m already seeing how it translates. No other humans can see more value in my son than my wife and I can. So we will reasonably support him, do our best not to meddle in ways we shouldn’t, and wait for the world to catch up in his valuation.
It’s wild to think that we are surrounded by underappreciated things in this world everyday, just waiting to be supported and valued. What great things are we missing out on simply because certain rocks haven’t been turned over and certain doors have never been opened?
Some possible answers could include “flying cars like in Back to the Future, Part II,” “cell phone watches like Penny and Brain had on Inspector Gadget,” and “the comeback of Pepsi Clear.”
Who knows what kind of social networking tools will be popular by the time my infant son is old enough to use them. I can only imagine the challenges I will face in communicating with him as technology continues to develop and he becomes a teenager. As for now, my biggest concern regarding myself staying relevant in the world of communication is the inescapable entity known as Twitter; as it relates to the readers of The Dadabase.
Up until recently, I didn’t take Twitter very seriously. But back in May when my personal blog, Dad from Day One, was picked up by Parents.com and transformed into what we now know as The Dadabase, I quickly learned just how relevant Twitter had instantly become (and/or needed to become) to my life.
I saw how quickly a seemingly average blog post of mine could get some immediate, widespread exposure because a handful of readers out there decided it was worth sharing on Twitter. As of this week The Dadabase has begun consistently averaging over a thousand views a day. That’s not to say, “Dang, ya’ll! Look at how awesome I am…”.
Instead, it’s quite the contrary: It only makes me incredibly aware of how huge a role my readers play in growing The Dadabase, as well as, my personal mission to positively re-brand fatherhood. My ability to grow a following is pretty similar to the way Inspector Gadget would catch the bad guys: He faithfully and passionately did his job, but it was his niece Penny and her canine friend Brain who actually made things happen. I am simply the Inspector Gadget of the parenting blog world.
This morning I caught up with my friend Joe Hendricks at a Starbucks here in Nashville. He is a professional photographer whose work has been featured in many posts here on The Dadabase and I highly respect his business advice. Naturally, he started asking me about how I am utilizing Twitter, as a writer. Well, the truth is I wasn’t.
Within a few minutes I realized I didn’t even know what the word “hashtag” meant. I guess I assumed it had something to do with a person labeling their Ziploc baggy of marijuana… turns out I was wrong. Even worse, I had no idea that Twitter has an “@Mentions” tab so that I can see where my Twitter followers have shared and responded to my Dadabase posts. It was thanks to the “@Mentions” tab that I was able to see that my most popular posts became that way because they were my most re-Tweeted posts.
So I spent about an hour today going back to reply and thank all the people who helped spread my writings further in the blogosphere. I never realized there were that many people I didn’t even know who were sharing The Dadabase with other people I didn’t even know. But I am extremely and sincerely grateful. That is so awesome of you who have been doing that. So, thank you!
Another thing I did was change my Twitter profile picture to feature my son, instead of the bizarre red panda that had remained since 2009.
It is so important to me that I respond to every single one of the comments I receive here on my blog; even when a reader openly disagrees with my perspective. I see now that replying to comments here on this site and on Facebook are only part of it. Now that I have been better educated on how to use Twitter, I promise to be more involved with my Twitter followers.
You see, I am only so tech savvy. I’m not yet cool enough for an iPhone or an iPad or a new laptop (though I desperately need one because the MacBook I use was already outdated when I bought it new in 2006). But now I am being forced to be cool enough to use Twitter. So pardon my progress as I figure this thing out.
I am always excited to hear from other parents out there who are going through the same stages of parenthood as I am. Additionally, I feel honored to be part of this global network where I can start a random conversation here on Parents.com, which is then promoted through Twitter, and then the rest of the world can choose to chime in if they find it engaging enough. And now as of today, if you reply via Twitter, you will officially hear back from me, nickshellwrites.
Is The Dadabase a “Christian blog?” That’s a good question. The answer is yes; in the sense that I am narrating my version of fatherhood from a Christian perspective. The answer is no; in the sense that it is not directed specifically for a Christian audience and that the majority of my posts do not contain an explicitly spiritual theme.
While I do sporadically splice in quotes from the Bible, I intentionally do not use quotation marks nor do I list the Biblical reference where they came from. Because to me, these ancient teachings are intertwined into my thought patterns. So I don’t see a need to separate them when I write.
I love writing for Parents.com. I am so appreciative of how much they value the realness and authenticity of all their bloggers; free of censorship. I can truly be me without having to ask myself, “Was that too Christian of me to say that?”
Basically, if it relates to and ties in with my life as a dad and a husband, it’s fair game. The Dadabase is simply an unfiltered reflection of what goes through my head as an unseasoned parent and an everyday guy who just happens to be of the Christian faith.
But while technically I do have complete freedom of speech here, I also believe in using my freedom to write content that is relevant to the majority of readers and not becoming consumed with promoting my own agendas to the point they become a distraction.
As a Christian, I sometimes struggle with the assumption that my viewpoint will largely be perceived by the general public as politically incorrect, representing an old-fashioned mindset that is typically unwelcome in mainstream media and entertainment.
I’m not referring to a reluctance to use the name “Jesus” instead of “God” or “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.” Instead, it’s stuff like when I mention that my son has a soul, that I am spiritually responsible for him, that I pray for him to one day know Christ like my wife and I do, and when I matter-of-factually state that there is a heavenly kingdom awaiting us after this life.
Even more so, I am overly aware of the bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus, save me from your followers.” I recognize that for some, the word “Christian” has a stigma connected to it, associated with words like “judgmental,” “prideful,” “arrogant,” and “bigot.” I realize how easy it can be to determine the integrity of an entire group based on their loudest, most hypocritical examples.
I know I am not expected to be perfect, but I am expected to be different. Yet in the most basic ways, as a parent, I still represent the way many moms and dads feel; Christian or not.
A slightly reoccurring phrase I have seen in comments that readers leave on this blog is “It’s like you’re reading my mind…”. Despite having different preferences in our parenting techniques and styles, most of us share the same basic desires for our children. It doesn’t take being a Christian to want to positively re-brand fatherhood or to be vulnerable enough to admit that I fell in love with my son gradually, not instantly.
Last month my wife helped teach 3rd grade at Vacation Bible School. The theme was “Where Faith and Life Connect.” That’s one of my themes too; as a human, as a writer, as a guy who has to go to a real job during the day just like most other people, and as a parent.
Yes, my faith is the most important thing to me. But it’s not all I talk about. In fact, whatever the next Dadabase post is about, I’m sure it won’t mention anything about God or Christianity or any overt spiritual themes.
Just as the familiar blue skies eventually intersect with the mysterious outer space, so do my everyday life events overlap my intangible Christian faith.