I’ve Got Walls Up, because I’m a Guy

Welcome to the deep, mysterious, likely un-relatable, rarely revealed cavern of the emotionally intelligent male mind.

Back in 2010, when my wife was pregnant with our son, my blog was featured in American Baby magazine; which eventually led to me becoming the official daddy blogger of their sister magazine, Parents; from May 2011 to June 2014.

In the initial write-up in American Baby, they pitched my blog to their readers with this invitation: “Wondering what your hubby’s really thinking?…”

At the time, I remember reading that and thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not that kind of guy. That’s not me. I don’t keep things to myself. My thoughts are no mystery to anyone…”

That was in 2010, before I actually had kids. Plus, I had only been married about 2 years at that point.

One of the great advantages of being married now for 8 and a half years and having 2 kids is that, by default, I have gained emotional intelligence. I grew up on in the inside. I got toughened up.

I became the husband and father I needed to be. The sensitive, and therefore “offendable”, guy I was before wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Essentially, to the outside world, I transcended from “optimistic nice person who everybody likes” to “hopeful yet realistic personable man who doesn’t necessarily measure up to everyone’s expectations anymore.”

Nostalgically put, I evolved from Luke Skywalker into Han Solo.

It was a necessary transformation for me. Perhaps one of the major milestones of this journey was when I published a blog post (and accompanying video) inviting the free world to attempt to offend me.

I had discovered that the only person who has power and authority over my emotions is me. In other words, no one in this entire world can “offend” me or “hurt my feelings” if I don’t first give them permission.

So I simply stopped giving anyone permission to offend me. And up came the walls…

I now live in a reality where I am unoffendable. Since making this conscious decision, the quality of my life has undeniably…

Improved.

Things in life just don’t bother me as much. Life is smoother now.

I am now in control of my emotions instead of them controlling me. For example, I have no shame in admitting I allow myself to cry every time I watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I am in touch with, and in control of, my emotions to the point where the cartoonish yet realistic presentation of a parent’s love for their child gets to me.

Needless to say, on the other hand, other people’s Facebook comments claim no effect on my day.

I have simplified my life so that I can enjoy and appreciate it that much more.

Granted, there’s a perceived downside to the lifestyle of male emotional intelligence.

I’ve got those walls up now. I’m more detached from the popular distractions of the world- and I know this.

But this, for me, is safe- and it’s efficient; less complicated.

In other words, I’ve become that guy I couldn’t relate to back in 2010:

I keep a lot of things to myself. Most of my thoughts are now a mystery to everyone.

I’ve adopted a Libertarian approach to the opinions and lifestyles of other people. What they do doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother them. I don’t try to change them. I don’t need to change them.

Because now, I am truly confident in myself and my beliefs, despite being completely aware of my unending faults.

This is not a classic case of bottling up my emotions, only to erupt later on. To me, that would be weak.

Instead, it’s a matter of consciously deciding not to let people or things bother me anymore.

In turn, I have noticed that I am that much more focused on my own family and close friends, in real life. Not on Facebook.

The 2010 version of me simply wouldn’t function in my life today in 2017. I have evolved out of necessity.

I now see life for the tragicomedy it is. Life is both sad and funny. It’s both inspiring and depressing.

By evolving to my emotionally intelligent state, I have made it possible to recognize when to express my emotions, accordingly.

Ultimately, I choose joy. I choose hope.

My hope today is that others can relate to my transformation.

You are no longer dealing with the young and naïve Luke Skywalker.

For better or worse, you’ve got Han Solo now.

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

There is no dispute. No one is even looking into it. Instead, the entire world simply unanimously accepts and agrees that I, Nick Shell, am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

What makes me such a manly vegan?…

First off, I am emotionally intelligent regarding my vegan lifestyle. Because I am fully secure in my beliefs, I have zero desire to try to convince others to become vegans. In fact, I would rather other people didn’t become vegans, especially not other men, because it keeps me more unique in my identity. (Approximately less than 0.5% of the American population are male vegans).

Second, I am a committed husband (been in love with the same woman for 10 years now; 8 and a half of which we’ve been married) and an involved father (hence, the daddy blog).

Plus, I am healthy and active. I am not a slave to my body; my body is a slave to me. I get plenty of protein (from vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) and I am always on the move:

I run and I go mountain biking regularly, plus I go hiking and exploring with my son.

Next, I am a decisive leader and a good communicator. I don’t fear change, I embrace it. I always have a few back-up plans.

I am undeniably confident, yet aware of my weaknesses, which I am always working to improve.

Granted, I am very aware of my skills and talents, making sure I utilize them as part of my identity.

Most people have a hard time thinking of just one other male vegan they know. Even if they can think of a male vegan other than me, then the question becomes: Is he manly?

That question quickly evolves: But is he manlier than Nick Shell?

So far, history shows that the answer has always been… no.

As a blogger and YouTuber, I figured I might as well make it official in this announcement today:

I am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

Dear Jack: I Haven’t Forgot about You over There

6 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: I Haven’t Forgot about You over There

Dear Jack,

I experience guilt over you. I don’t get to spend enough time with you.

However, it’s not an issue of choice. It’s not that I could be spending time with you but am choosing not to.

Instead, it’s that in order to make a living for our family, Mommy and I both have to work. That’s nothing unique. That’s a normal problem.

But it presents a lifestyle in which despite living in a wonderful neighborhood and you being able to attend one of the best schools in the Nashville area, Mommy and I have to spend so much of our time commuting- and therefore, you spend time at “before care” in addition to being at Kindergarten most of the day.

During the week, my time is so limited with you. Every morning, I get you ready for school and drop you off. Every night we eat dinner together and then I get you ready for bed. All time combined, that’s barely an hour.

So really, it’s mainly just the weekends where I get to spend time with you. Granted, we’re having to buy groceries, clean the house, run errands, and go to church.

Not to mention, I’m constantly taking care of your baby sister when we’re all together.

I’m not able to pay you the attention I want. You don’t demand it. But I’m not able to give you what I want.

That’s why I treasure our quality time together. That’s why I make the most of it.

I experience guilt over this. I don’t know what else I can do though.

This is simply what I know as being a modern-day American parent who works full time and lives in a commuter’s community.

I wish could be with you more. You’re worth so much more than I can give you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: I Experience Guilt for Not Being Able to Spend as Much Time with You Right Now

6 years.

Dear Jack: I Experience Guilt for Not Being Able to Spend as Much Time with You Right Now

Dear Jack,

Once we got back from our Thanksgiving trip to Nonna and Papa’s in Alabama, as we were walking through the front door of our house, I put my arm around your shoulder and said, “You did so good on the trip. I am really proud of you.”

As I was saying those words, it’s like it hit me all at once: You were so independent. You didn’t really need me for much the whole time. I didn’t have to worry about you.

Though I was in the same house as you, and often the same room, you and I were interacting with other family members instead of each other; compared to the norm.

So you and I didn’t really have much quality time together, though we did with other members of the family who we don’t see as often.

We did the right thing. After all, the holidays is for catching up with people you don’t see as often.

Yet, I suppose I still somehow experienced some guilt over it. Because as we settled back in after Thanksgiving, I realized how much of my time is required by your sister Holly.

For me to be a good husband and good parent, I have to be holding a baby most of the time we are all together at the house. While I am proud to take care of your sister, I recognize that the days of you and I just being able to hang out anytime are sort of on hold for right now.

Before your sister was born, we could just easily run upstairs and watch a stupid movie together or go outside for a hike.

But these days, my mobility is greatly restricted by me taking care of your sister while Mommy concentrates on the majority of the housework; like cooking and laundry.

I miss our time together. Things will eventually get back closer to how they were before. But honestly, I think it will be another 5 months or so, when your sister turns a year old.

You’re such a good kid. I don’t want to miss out on truly living every minute I can with you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake and Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

5 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake and Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

After a cinematic-quality wedding ceremony on the water, we all made our way inside for Jake and Stephanie’s wedding reception, which was also quite the class act.

You buddied up with your cousin Savannah, who you don’t often get to see when we fly out to California each summer. As I look back on these pictures from a few weeks ago, I can’t help but notice how much she looks like Mommy, just without the bangs.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) r6

I’m not used to this, but it turns out I wasn’t the only vegan there! I was one of 4, actually, and that’s not even counting Mommy, who ordered the special vegan option on the menu; even though she’s not actually a vegan, but a vegetarian instead.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Since there were other vegans there, that also meant I actually got to enjoy vegan sweets. I fully recognize this may be the only wedding I ever attend that had its own special vegan wedding cake.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Outside on the deck overlooking the water, there was a blank canvas that anyone could help paint, which served as a wedding memory for Jake and Stephanie. You painted a fish for them.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

After the meal, your cousin Savannah let you play a fun game on her phone, and even took you out to the dance floor!

Jake and Stephanie entertained everyone with a special montage for their first dance. It was very impressive. They obviously had practiced a lot for it.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) r14

During the midst of the dance party, your baby sister Holly did her best to keep up with all the fun. But granted, it was getting past her bed time.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) r15

It’s safe to say that she partied ‘til she dropped!

The wedding and reception were nothing short of magical. Such a good time. Memories that we’ll be holding on to, for sure.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) r12

Jake and Stephanie’s wedding was the whole purpose for our trip. While we had a wonderful time celebrating with them, I can’t deny that we made an epic family vacation out of the trip.

Dear Holly: Your Uncle Jake’s Wedding at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander) Dear Holly: Your Uncle Jake’s Wedding at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

We got to visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as Legoland. We enjoyed a bonfire, we walked along the coast, and played in the sand. We got to drive all across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, with the 3rd row seat which you claimed as your own.

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake & Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

And it was all because Aunt Stephanie became a part of the Tuttle family, just like I did 8 years ago.

Too bad we don’t have a big family wedding to attend every year in California!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Uncle Jake and Aunt Stephanie’s Wedding Reception (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Exactly 10 Years Ago Today, I Met the Girl I Would Marry

I Married the Right One

Exactly 10 years ago today, on October 5, 2006, I met the girl who I would start dating 4 months later, and marry within 2 years. In a crowded building called The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, I saw who I thought was a beautiful Puerto Rican or maybe even half-Korean girl.

I was wrong in both my assumptions on her ethnicity, but as I introduced myself to her in a line of hundreds waiting to get into the main room where an episode of CMT’s Crossroads was soon to be filmed, I knew right away that this fellow “extra” for the audience of that episode was A) out of my league and B) someone very intriguing and special.

Now flash-forward to this past August. It was close to midnight in the parking lot of the movie theatre in Spring Hill, Tennessee after having just seen the premiere of Suicide Squad. My friend Jarred and I were laughing as we reminisced about the “10 years-ago” versions of ourselves; back when we lived in a house together along with other bachelors.  During that time frame is when we happened to meet and begin dating our future wives.

He then said something that has stuck with me: “We married the right girls.”

It’s weird to think that the more naïve, less mature version of you is responsible for making one of the most serious (and permanent) decisions of your entire life; a decision that will not only affect other people’s lives but also create new life.

I feel like only now do I know enough about life to begin to make a decision like that. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, it’s the opposite:

The reason I am now the mature and experienced person I am now is because of the girl I married 8 years ago.

It turns out, the 25 year-old versions of ourselves knew enough of what they were doing when met nearly 10 years ago, fell in love, and got married.

By “doing life” together for nearly a decade now, we have by default taught ourselves and each other what emotional intelligence is all about; making daily conscious decisions to choose to be victorious, not allow ourselves to be victims.

I see emotional intelligence as the inside-out version of what love is. By choosing to love your spouse, you choose to victorious instead of allowing yourself to become a victim.

A decade ago she and I were 25 year-old kids trying to figure out life. Now were are 35 year-old adults with two beautiful children. For the most part, we’re settled down and along for the ride.

I don’t know which surprises and adventures are ahead, but I do know this: She’s the one I want to spend the rest of my future with.

Victors versus Victims

Victor: compliments others

Victim: criticizes others

Victor: embraces change

Victim: fears change

Victor: forgives others

Victim: holds grudges

Victor: always learning

Victim: thinks they know everything

Victor: accepts responsibility for their failures

Victim: blames others for their failures

Victor: has a sense of gratitude

Victim: has a sense of entitlement

Victor: sets goals and develops plans

Victim: never sets goals

My Reaction to the Chicco “Performance Review” Video, By Guest Blogger Jill Shell

 

This is a special blog post by Jill Shell, the wife of the man behind Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

Let me just start by stating the obvious: being a parent is hard work.  Anyone who has been lucky enough to have a child, or perhaps two or three (or more), can testify to this.  It is a full time job with endless responsibilities, long hours, restless nights, and well, you get the picture.  Tack onto this a job outside of the home and you bring life to a whole new level of “crazy.”  Our family welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world 5 months ago and have been learning to get into a new groove of life with two working parents, a Kindergartner and an infant and it hasn’t been easy.

My Reaction to the Chicco "Performance Review" Video, By Guest Blogger Jill Shell

Before taking maternity leave, I worried about everything: about leaving my duties in the hands of others; about missing too much; about not being missed; about being replaced; about meeting the needs of two children at once; and mostly about returning to work and the numerous anxieties of leaving my kids and having to perform as if I hadn’t just brought another human being into the world.  It was a whirlwind of thoughts and angst that was building up in me, but seemingly it dissipated as the baby arrived and we began a new routine at home.  My focus was on my family and I was getting good at balancing the caring, the cooking, the cleaning, and everything in between.  When, alas, my four months was quickly coming to an end and the reality of being a working mom set in.

I’ve been back to work for 5 weeks now and it was harder than I could have ever imagined.  For the first three weeks back, it seemed like I could get to the middle of the week still afloat, but by Wednesday evening, I felt like the world was caving in on me.  Every minute of the day was spoken for and it was rush, rush, rush through it all.  I found myself day dreaming about any other way I could support the household income and raise my children at home.  Then it happened.  The transition period ended and it feels like we’ve gotten to a new level of “normal.”

As I look around, I see lots of families, moms and dads, in the same boat and it’s comforting to know that more people are there supporting you and watching you succeed, rather than waiting to see you fail.

 

After watching the Chicco “Performance Review” video which is part of their #NeverStopGrowing campaign, I love the response from Jess’s co-worker, Aaron, in the video where he sincerely tells her that he has no idea how she does what she does.  Because the truth is, Jess probably doesn’t even realize half of the tasks she takes on and completes.  She’s doing what she needs to do.  She’s found her new normal and with the help of her family and co-workers, realizing it’s a natural fit.