Posts Tagged ‘ Growing Pains ’

Family: The Opposite Of Feeling Alone

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

As I write this, you’ve just fallen asleep in your room next door, Mommy is buying groceries at Whole Foods, and I am letting John Mayer’s new album, Paradise Valley, serve as my background for this quiet (for now) Saturday afternoon.

I didn’t want to feel sad right now, but I kind of do.

Just like I don’t think John Mayer intended to make a sad-feeling album, but somehow in all of its mid-tempo mellowness and subtleties, it makes me feel… almost… alone.

And that’s crazy!

The last thing I ever have time to think these days is that I feel lonely.

By default, it seems nearly impossible for me to feel that way. How could I?

We don’t have a large family. It’s just the three of us.

But having you and Mommy to need me to make your lives function right, it keeps me feeling like part of a whole that would otherwise be incomplete.

Even if we never add a fourth member to our family, we’ll still always be family. It’s us. For life.

Yes, I’m obsessed with trying to be the most involved and selfless husband and father I can be; contrasted against the way the media still insists on portraying dads, like 20/20 did for their Fathers’ Day special.

Yes, I probably talk too much about my agenda to be open-minded in an attempt to keep from growing to become a bitter old man. And about the importance of praying for wisdom, humility, and grace.

It’s just that I am so grateful for our family. I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come and grown together:

I think about how you were brought into this world in a time when Mommy and I had just moved away from our home in Nashville, only to have to move back about 8 months later because we struggled to find jobs the whole time, and lived off our savings until they were all gone.

I think about that financial burden and how deeply that psychologically affected me. To be too honest, I’m just now realizing as I’m writing this that I am actually still finishing up the healing process from that dark time in my life.

I think about how over the past two years we’ve dug ourselves out of $58,000 of debt, becoming debt-free a few months ago, the Dave Ramsey way, not by winning the lottery or even by getting raises, but thanks to living by a merciless budget which has included zero tolerance for eating meals out, cable TV or smart phones.

We’ve paid our dues and still are.

I think about the lyrics of the Steve Miller Band song, “Jet Airliner,” where it says, “You know you got to go through hell before you get to heaven.”

Our family has officially made it through to that crossroads, that ground zero, where we can build our lives together, upwards.

I feel it. It’s like I’m standing on top of a mountain right now looking down, seeing the difficult way we got here, then turning around to see that paradise valley on the other side. It’s like I’m finally taking some time to take long deep breaths now. (Both figuratively and literally.)

Life is always uncertain, but now, it’s somehow more certain than it’s ever been or felt.

And we have each other for it. We have our family. This is me expressing gratitude. Amen.





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What The Family Name Means To Me

Friday, February 15th, 2013

2 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I don’t know whether it’s from the Vacation movies with the Griswolds, or maybe just a combination of every 80′s sitcom I grew up watching, but in my mind it’s the dad’s job to emphasize what it means to be a [enter last name here].

To illustrate, I’ll just use Growing Pains as an example here. I can easily imagine Jason Seaver telling Ben, “We Seavers are not quitters!”

Every once in a while you like to play with the seashells we collected from our trip to Naples, FL in December 2011.

You pour them out of the plastic cup we keep them in, then examine them one by one on the carpet.

I always think, “Jack, do you realize you are playing with our last name right now?”

Knowing it would just confuse you at this point to try to explain to you that our last name is Shell and what a last name even is, I just let you enjoy your playtime.

But I have been pondering what it means to be a Shell.

Unless you ever have a baby brother, you are basically the last male Shell in our family to carry on the name, since I was the only one until you got here.

Essentially, I figure so much of what it means to be a Shell has to do with the household culture that Mommy and I are raising you in.

I would definitely say in order to be Shell, you have to be a bit on the quirky side; never apologizing for being different, never being tempted to follow the crowd.

Work ethic is huge to our identity. We like to be known for working hard, being proactive, and thinking creatively.

When it comes to politics, we are conservative, yet open-minded and open-armed to different cultures.

In regards to financial decisions, we are as shrewd as my Italian grandfather who grew up in an orphanage during the 1930′s. (The day we pay for a smart phone or cable TV is the day they give it to us for free!)

We are equally as disciplined when it comes to nutrition, being sticklers for reading ingredients while being liberal on calories.

Shells are deep thinkers, always curious of where stuff comes from and how it got here.

To us, God is not simply the third word of OMG, but the one we try to please everyday in the way we treat others.

You are a Shell. You’re one of us. You are destined to encompass the best and worst of our family’s micro-culture.

However, in regards to the importance that individuality plays in our family, I recognize that despite the way that Mommy and I will inevitably “brainwash” you in our weird ways as we raise you, still you have free will to make your own decisions and form your own opinions; especially the older you get.

So while you are one of us no matter what, you’re still you. And I like the micro-culture you bring to our family. After all, I write a letter to you about it everyday.





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