Dear Holly: You are a Little Doll Who Has Come to Life

3 years, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

This week, Mommy and I completed the difficult task of narrowing down the 20 professional portraits taken at your school to just 3. Actually, we were not successful.

Because we ended up paying extra money so we could get 5 instead.

The easiest way to summarize how I feel about these photos of you:

You are a doll.

For me, it’s truly coming to the realization that if toy companies needed a real life girl to use as a model for making dolls, they would use your picture to base it off of.

You are a little doll who came to life.



Dear Jack: Our Family Quarantine Jeep Ride Through Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area

9 years, 4 months.

For the 3rd weekend in a row now, our family has designated an entire Sunday afternoon to taking the Jeep out to some new random town we’ve never been to, in an hour radius from where we live.

This time, I decided to search “Wildlife Management Area near me”. Having grown up right next to one in Alabama, and having really put the Jeep to the test on that one last summer, I figured that any wildlife management area near us in Tennessee would be worth the drive.

I was right.

Once we arrived at the 15,000 acre park, we immediately saw another black Jeep like mine. I approached the driver and passenger to ask them where the best place to start was.

Billy and Angie offered to show us around, so we just followed them.

Your favorite part was when we drove on top of the dam. You also enjoyed playing on a pile of rocks with your sister.

I’m pretty sure we just discovered a new Jeep-friendly playground!



Dear Holly: Social Distancing During Coronavirus 2020

3 years, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

I’m not sure how much of Coronavirus 2020 that you’ll remember, but from what I can tell, you’re still having plenty of fun.

Mommy took you and your brother to the Dollar Tree to buy you both some things to your “Entertain Yourself Survival Kit”.

You are loving your flash cards! You showed them to Nonna and Papa over a Face Time call a few days ago.

Since we can’t see the rest of our family until this all clears up a bit more, this is how we’re getting by.

I don’t really think you’ve noticed anything is even different at our house, honestly. That’s good!



Dear Jack: What I Was Doing During My Own Spring Break 30 Years Ago in 1990

9 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This will most likely be remembered as your strangest Spring Break ever. Instead of being quarantined in our house because of the Coronavirus, you were supposed to be at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama this week.

Being forced to stay home during your 3rd grade Spring Break is definitely in major contrast to what I was doing exactly 30 years ago in March 1990 during mine.

That was when our family went to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the first time.

I specifically remember it being the first time I ever experienced a water faucet with an automatic sensor. I was amazed how I could wash my hands without having to each touch a knob.

And that was only the beginning of the amazing things I experienced in Disney World.

So yes, Disney World vs. lockdown to due the Coronavirus… quite a difference.

We’ll make the most of this, though.



Dear Holly: Making Buckwheat Pancakes for Breakfast

3 years, 10 months.

Dear Holly,

Last year, Mommy and I started a tradition of having Nonna and Papa come up the Saturday that Mommy and I go to get our taxes done.

Afterwards, we go out for dinner and stay at a hotel in Nashville while you and your brother spend the day and night with Nonna and Papa.

Meanwhile, this time around, you and your brother decided to have a slumber party in their home.

You put down your sleeping bags, like one big pallet on the carpet.

Then the next morning, you helped Nonna make buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.

You had a lot of fun!




Dear Jack: Diggin’ Up Onions

9 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

While Nonna and Papa were in town a few weeks ago, you spent one afternoon with them digging up little wild onions in the community area of our neighborhood.

I had always wondered why often, it smells like onions when people mow their lawns. Now I know why- little wild onions are often growing in the lawn.

Once you collected several pounds of the wild onions, you washed them off over the sink. Your sister helped.

Now that I think of it, the two of you should have opened a “Wild Onion” stand in our neighborhood. Nothing like a refreshing wild onion on a crisp Spring morning!



These are the Good Ole Days… We’re Still Living in Them (Original Song Included)

If 2019 was the year of my existential crisis (realizing I had reached all my life goals before the age of 40 and having to recalibrate my identity accordingly), then it feels like 2020 is going to be the year of me learning to accept that I have already lived the first half of my life.

Perhaps the biggest epiphany I’ve had about it so far is this:

I spent the first 38 years of my life looking back in nostalgia, foolishly convincing myself that somehow, one day, I will be able to return to the good ole days.

But I will spend the next 38 years aware that right now, we’re actually living in the good ole days that we will look back on and wish we could return to.

These are the good ole days. We’re still living in them.

The only possible way to return to previous good ole days is to spend time with people and share memories of those exclusive events you lived through together.

I think the default in the human experience is to fail to recognize it’s harder to recognize the good ole days while we are still in them, because we are always also balancing out the mundane and negative events happening alongside the good things.

In reality though, looking back, we tend to remember the good memories more than the others. Those good times serve as the thumbnails for our past.

That’s why I felt it was important to write my newest song, “These are the Good Days”.

It is a reminder to make the most of life while we still are alive; focusing on the good things, which are often overshadowed by the mundane and the negative.

You can hear my new song below:

All words and music by Nick Shell:

My life is half way over, my life has never been more in focus

No time machine to take us all back, what’s happened is stuck in the past

These are the good ole days, we’re still living in them

I won’t always be here, you won’t always be here

So shake a hand, shake a leg, soon we’ll all be dead

Don’t want to die, so I’ll try to live while I’m alive

This is it, these are the good ole days

You learn to take the good with the bad things

Life is both a comedy and a tragedy

No way to fast-forward or rewind

Just try to catch up if you get behind