My Parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in Hawaii

Yes, today is Father’s Day. So, Happy Father’s Day! (Even though 73% of my blog readers are actually female.)

But for my parents, it’s an especially epic day: Exactly 40 years ago today, my parents got married.

The date was June 18, 1977. My dad was 20. My mom was 19.

And now, 40 years later, they have two children and four grandchildren.

For their special 40th wedding anniversary, they decided to go big, as it was literally years in the making:

They had been planning and putting aside $20 a week, for the past few years, to fund their tropical vacation/anniversary celebration in Hawaii.

And now, after a whole week spent in the Aloha State, my parents are back.

The whole time they were out there, my mom kept me up to speed by sending me pictures from her phone. I am glad my parents were not shy about asking strangers to take their photos, at each place along the way.

So much for taking it easier. Instead of the word vacation, it seemed more like an expedition!

They were so proud of the Mazda 3 they rented and were able to go exploring in.

It is obvious they made the most of their journey to Hawaii. Instead of just hanging under an umbrella on the beach all day, they were on the move!

Among many other adventures, they hiked a volcano, swam in a waterfall, and visited Pearl Harbor where they met a 97 year-old survivor of the attack.

Not to mention, they definitely enjoyed the local cuisine.

It’s funny because if it were my wife and I taking this trip, I am convinced we wouldn’t have been so ambitious! But my parents were dedicated to making the most of their 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

They got their money’s worth.

And now, they will have these memories as their souvenirs.

Happy 40th Anniversary to my parents!

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.

This is 36: The CD Player in My Paid Off, 13 Year-Old Car Stopped Working… So I Now I Use My Shattered iPod from 2006

I have first world problems. And even then, the word “problems” is a ridiculous overstatement.

Two weeks ago, the CD player in my old (but paid off) 2004 Honda Element stopped working. I had just purchased every Metallica album for $5.99 on clearance at Best Buy… where they are apparently doing away with selling CDs now that most people just download or stream their music.

(In case you’re not aware of my premature mid-life crisis where I suddenly became a huge Metallica fan and legitimately taught myself to skateboard, read all about it here.)

So now, sitting in the cubby of my dash, there are several CDs that I have yet to wear out, including others I have kept in heavy rotation- until now.

It’s important to note that as a skilled driver in the Nashville area, I have accepted my fate that I will be in the car for a total minimum of 2 hours each day, to drive only about 38 total miles round trip for my daily commute for work.

Just me in the car with my thoughts for two hours, every day.

I depend on that solitude. It is good for my brain and good for my soul.

And that solitude has always been undeniably enhanced by the kinesthetic routine of physically placing whatever CD that I feel like listening to at the moment into the CD player to play through the speakers.

No streaming or digital files. Just a CD. Like in high school in the 1999.

But now, that American right has been taken away.

And it’s definitely not worth buying a new CD player for my car.

Hopefully, I won’t be getting a new car anytime soon. That’s right- hopefully, I won’t.

Last year between having a baby, paying cash for a new car for my wife, taking a big family vacation, and having multiple hospital stays for our kids… this year is all about saving our money to eventually buy me a new car in cash like we did for my wife.

I need my faithful Honda Element to hold up until we can buy me a new car, which will be well over a year. It’s almost like I pray every time turn I turn the key in the ignition, “Please don’t let this be the day it doesn’t start…”

With us being Dave Ramsey followers, I would feel horrible about myself if I had to finance a new vehicle. It goes against who I am as a person.

So here’s who I am as a person: I now proudly drive while listening to a busted iPod that has a battery that dies by the end of my 2 hour round trip commute, even though it’s fully charged when I leave the house.

Anything from before 2007 is on there, though. Time to get reacquainted with The Wallflowers and Sister Hazel.

This is 36.

My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.

Dear Jack: You Have Really Cool Parents

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Looking at the pictures from on our visit last Saturday to Westhaven with our friends Mohamed, Lena, and Hanna, one thing becomes undeniable: You have really cool parents.

Mohamed and I, both being the token “take hundreds of pictures of your kid at every outing” kind of dads, ended up getting some good shots of all the kids.

I like the picture he took of you and me playing on the slide, where you are hiding below, in attempt to scare me as I go down the slide. The look on your face seems to indicate, “Yeah, I know my dad’s crazy… but I’m used to it by now.”

In addition to me purposely pushing you too high on the swing, to test your limits, you purposed we engage in a good classic game of Tag. I thought it was funny how you started by proclaimed, “Daddy, I’m it first.” But then you didn’t start chasing me…

So I turned the tables on you and started chasing you instead, and you ran from me… even though it was supposed to be the other way around.

Once you finally embraced what being it meant, I found a way to challenge you as you chased me. We were standing next to this swinging balance beam.

As you ran towards me and got close, I simply jumped over the balance beam. Then as you ran around it, I jumped back to the other side.

Speaking of the balance beam, Mommy was really good at crossing it without falling off.

You were so happy when I found a little plastic alligator in the playground mulch. We took it down to the creek, where you used a boat made out of leafs, so he could “sail down the river.”

Yep, you have really cool parents. No playing on our smart phones from the bench. We’re out there having fun with you any chance we get.

Love,

Daddy

Photos by Mohamad Alaw & Nick Shell.

Dear Jack: Our “Skateboard and Stroller Vs. Sprinters” Race!

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

This weekend I was supposed to take you to go watch the new Power Rangers movie, but you were satisfied with watching Trolls from Redbox. So instead, our family made the most of the wonderful spring weather in our cul-de-sac.

It all started when Mommy decided to push you and your sister in the double stroller, while I skateboarded alongside you all. But that didn’t last long…

Because you soon realized you didn’t want me to be able to move faster than you. There’s too much competition running through your veins to be okay with me going faster than you, in any capacity.

This quickly evolved into a series of official races.

You sprinting versus me pushing your sister in the stroller while I skateboarded.

There were some close ones, but you beat us every time. You are truly a fast runner.

And I was legitimately trying to win! I’m not the kind of dad who lets his son win. I suppose that only adds to your competitive spirit. You have to earn a win with me.

Then Mommy wanted to see if she could run faster than you. She’s fast, but not fast enough for you. So it stands, you are the official champion of the “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race in our cul-de-sac.

For anyone happening to drive through our neighborhood this weekend, just casually looking for houses on the market, I’m sure they were in for a surprise when they saw a family conducting a series of wacky races! It had to be such a strange, yet fun-looking event.

But hey, it’s our cul-de-sac. Our neighbors are used to our antics by now.

Though we’re often on the go, when we are home, we’re bound to be doing something that’s not quite so normal.

By the way, let our “skateboard and stroller vs. sprinters” race serves as proof that you undeniably having really cool parents!

Love,

Daddy

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.