That Moment You See an Old Photo and Remember the More Fun (Yet Less Responsible) Version of Yourself…

Earlier this week I received a Facebook notification that someone had shared a photo of me. I immediately found this odd, since I’m typically not in photos with other people unless it’s with my wife or kids, and it was my camera being used.

Then I looked and saw it:
“A little throwback for your Monday blues…”

Jeffrey A. Smith had shared a photo he had taken of me back in August 2005, from over 11 years ago, for my “moving to Nashville” photo shoot. I was 24 years old at the time. (See left.)

I immediately responded to his comment: “I don’t remember this guy! After nearly 9 years of marriage and raising 2 kids, I am far from the confused guy wandering out of the woods, ha ha!”

There’s something naturally funny about seeing an old photo of yourself, especially when it’s shared in real time like this.

To me, what is so humorous is not the long hair, the backpacker style pullover I bought while I was living in Thailand, or the really baggy jeans.

It’s not even the (angry?) look on my face which possibly seems to indicate I’m preparing to fight for my life in a Hunger Games scenario.

Instead, it’s the obvious reminder that who I was back in 2005 at age 24 is not who I am now in 2017, just weeks away from my 36th birthday.

I have been completely rewired since the day this picture was taken.

Sure, I do have vague memories of that guy in the picture. But that’s not me. I think of him as a guy I used to know back in the 2000s.

I don’t know, maybe I was more of a fun guy back then:

No real responsibilities. No real job. No family to support. Just dreams to pursue.

And now, nearly a dozen years later, I simply can’t relate to that guy in these pictures from that day in August 2005.

I am so grateful for how far I have evolved from that guy, actually. But if it weren’t for that guy, I could have never become who I am today. He had what it took to get me to where I needed to be.

It’s strange to think that people who haven’t been around me since high school, or college, or from when I first moved to Nashville, they knew that guy… not this guy.

I don’t know for sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

But I have to assume that most of us have a similar story. I have a feeling most people can understand how an old photo brings back memories of a former version of ourselves that immediately causes us to laugh- and to be grateful that we have been blessed with enough years to move beyond who we used to be, so that we could become who we are today.

The Awkward Paradox of Gender Roles in Parenting (in a Society Now Less Divided by Gender)

Last week I published Top 10 Masculine Traits of Men (Plus, “I’m a Masculinist, Which is Not the Opposite of a Feminist”), in which presented the theory that a man’s masculinity is subconsciously and collectively judged by society based on what extent he is perceived as being a confident, decisive, funny, healthy, physically active, emotionally intelligent, committed leader who respects women, helps his fellow man, and finds his identity in his skill set.

I had more than one woman respond by agreeing with these masculine traits, but adding that these traits would be good and beneficial for women as well. One told me, “I would say that perhaps we should change our expectations as a society so they are less divided by gender.”

Well said. So true. Very relevant to the conversation.

I feel that out of necessity and by default, our society is becoming less divided by gender. I find it simply irrelevant and outdated when advertising agencies (as well as people) make comments to insinuate that men hate and/or fear changing dirty diapers. Or when people call it “babysitting” when a dad takes care of his own children for the day while his wife goes out running errands.

Sure, I admit there is some personal awkwardness in always understanding my role in the household- to be both “the man” my wife needs me to be and at the same time for me to assume roles that would traditionally have been feminine.

It used to be that if a man was heavily involved in his children’s lives, as well as household chores, that man would be praised by society, and even by his wife, while she would be merely expected to do those things.

But it’s no longer ironic to see the opening sequence of Who’s the Boss?, as the ever-masculine Tony Danza vacuums the drapes.

Men clean toilets. Men do the dishes. Men feed babies. Men sit on the carpet and play with their kids.

None of this is ironic.

In fact, I would be willing to present a theory that a man who is a father and husband, but who is not heavily involved in household chores and the care of his children, is not considered a good dad or a good husband by his wife.

By today’s standards, a good husband is not simply a man who loves his wife, but who also is extremely actively involved in chores and childcare. The two roles are inseparable, now more than ever.

A failure to see that shift in culture is a failure to be relevant as a spouse and a parent.

To me, that’s obvious. To me, it’s not a theory. It’s simply fact.

But then again, this is coming from a happily married man who cleans the toilets and changes those dreaded dirty diapers.

35 Year-Old Husband and Father Learns to Skateboard, Embraces Metallica

I know it sounds like a concept for an article for a satirical website like The Babylon Bee or The Onion, but no, this is my real life story.

Yes, there’s something instantly ironic about a conservative 35 year-old husband and father of 2 who lives in a cul-de-sac who decides to teach himself to skateboard and finally fully embraces his hidden fascination with the legendary metal band Metallica.

One might even suppose I could be going through some sort of mid-life crisis, though I’m not sure if I’m quite old enough to qualify for that yet.

Maybe it’s my way of subconsciously proving to myself that I am not content with being a predictable suburban dad.

I wouldn’t deny that theory. I am aware that it’s fundamentally important to me to remain young in spirit, even as I mature as an adult. So that theory totally makes sense.

What officially started it all was back in November for my son’s 6 year-old birthday, when my wife and I decided to buy him a skateboard, on account of several of the other kids in our neighborhood having them. But how could I teach him to skate if I didn’t know how to myself?

So my wife ordered a skateboard online for me as well. After watching just 2 or 3 YouTube videos, and dedicating many of lunch breaks at work to practicing over the past several months, I have been effectively skateboarding.

It has served as a liberating yet legitimate work-out. It has not only exercised my body, but also my mind, as I have constantly had to balance in order to keep from awkwardly falling off.

Fate would have it that back in January, just 2 months after his birthday, my son had to be rushed to Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital after a random case of strep throat turned into a parapharyngeal abscess on his neck. As I stayed overnight with him a couple of nights, I spent some time watching videos on YouTube on my phone after he fell asleep.

It was then that I stumbled upon some Metallica music videos, and for the first time, I really connected with their music.

I realized that their complicated sound, vulnerably honest lyrics, and dark themes which are focused on human nature as well as injustice in the world, are in accordance with the emotional maturity I have gained over the past few years as I’ve evolved from Luke Skywalker into Han Solo.

In particular, I most relate to songs like “Sad But True” which explores the selfish side of human nature that we tend to forget or deny is there:

“I’m your hate when you want love… I’m your life, I’m the one who took who there…

I’m your truth, telling lies

I’m your reason, alibis

I’m inside, open your eyes

I’m you

Sad but true”

And from Metallica’s latest album is a song called “Am I Savage?” in which the video portrays a man around my age (who happens to look a bit like me) as he journeys through his average day with his loving wife and two lovely children; as well as time in the office.

The dichotomy of his actual presentation to the world is contrasted to the inner impulses he successfully manages on a daily basis, as the idea is expressed, “beauty and the beast are colliding.”

I also appreciate the Libertarian concepts found in songs like “Nothing Else Matters”.

So what may appear as a random phase in my life is actually a crucial chapter to the character arc of Nick Shell, the 35 year-old daddy blogger.

For now, my son is taking a slower pace on the skateboard, as he is starting out by just sitting on it and he scoots down the sidewalk. Plus, he enjoys chasing me around with a Nerf gun while I skate past him.

He and I are both growing up; despite the 29 and a half year difference and despite being in much different stages in life.

There’s a paradox in there somewhere… how we need to remain forever young inside yet we also have to embrace the responsibilities of adulthood in an imperfect world.

I’m right there in the midst of sorting that out.

As for my son, he’s perfectly happy with Power Rangers and Pokemon. Lucky place to be.

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.

How Southern am I? You Decide…

How Southern am I? You Decide…

I have lived my entire life (35 years) in the South. Sure, I’ve traveled the world, spending weeks at a time in Thailand, South Korea, New Zealand, Trinidad, and Equator… but as far as permanent residence, I was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama; and only lived in the South.

After I graduated high school, having just turned 18, I went to college in Hudson, Florida and then Lynchburg, Virginia. Then I moved to Nashville, Tennessee; where I’ve been for over 11 years now.

The very first “record” I ever heard was by the Country group, Alabama (who happen to be from my hometown). It was their 1984 Roll On album that I would lip sync to as I walked around on my parents’ bed, pretending it was my stage.

I am a Southerner. It’s true.

But… how Southern am I?

Here’s the evidence I’ve got going against me.

First off, I don’t have a strong Southern accent. It’s there if you’re looking for it, but it’s never been enough to convince anyone I’m actually from Alabama.

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Then I explain to people: My mom moved from Buffalo, New York (which is near the Canadian border) when she was 15. Eight years later, when she was 23, I was born. In other words, I was pretty much born to a Yankee mother; at least, she was at the time.

Plus, her parents were the grandparents I was around the most, as they only lived a few miles away: A full-blooded Italian grandfather named Alberto Victoro Metallo from Kenosha, Wisconsin and a full-blooded Mexican grandmother whose maiden name was Delores “Lola” Gonzales Mendez from Buffalo, New York. Growing up in proximity to such Old World influence and foreign culture, it undeniably watered down the sweet tea of my Southern raising.

It ultimately gave me the ability to hear everyone else’s Alabama accent, which I likely disassociated myself from, subconsciously.

The Southern Accent became as noticeable to me as the Midwestern Accent, like I had heard on TV; meaning it sounded theatrical, not natural, to me.

But it’s not just in my more neutralized accent, it’s also in my detachment from Southern culture. I didn’t grow up watching sports, since my dad (who actually is a full Southerner himself) was into karate instead. Therefore, I wasn’t too interested in playing sports. Admittedly, I barely understand the basic rules of football.

Instead, I was interested in exploring the woods and riding my bike. I grew up in the mountains of northern Alabama, surrounded by DeSoto State Park, DeSoto Falls, and Little River Canyon.

However, going back more the way of the Southerner, I regularly attend monster truck shows. If I could own any vehicle, I would either choose a Toyota Tacoma or a Jeep Wrangler.

I’m in the midst of a minor identity crisis. How Southern am I?

Dear Holly: Both of Your Half-Italian Grandmothers

9 months.

Dear Holly: Both of Your Half-Italian Grandmothers

Dear Holly,

Everyone in our family of 4 is a quarter Italian: I am, Mommy is, your brother is, and you are.

That’s because both my Mommy (Nonna) originally from Buffalo, New York, and Mommy’s Mommy (Grandma) from near San Francisco, California are half Italian. I realize that some people honestly don’t give much thought to their ethnic background and heritage, but I definitely do. It fascinates me.

You have the Metallo genes on Nonna’s side and the Tocchini genes on Grandma’s. With your relatively fair skin and sort of strawberry-blonde hair, your Italian genes aren’t so obvious at this point. Yet still, 25% of who you are is traced back to Italy.

Last month, Grandma flew in from California to help take care of you for two weeks; as you had one sickness after another for so long. Then, the day after Grandma flew back, we picked up Nonna, who stayed home with you for a week. So for three straight weeks, you were under the constant care of a half-Italian grandmother.

We are very fortunate that we were be able to call both of your grandmothers out to Tennessee to take care of you.

No matter how good a day care is, it can never match what a grandmother has to offer. Not only were you spoiled for three weeks in a row, but so were the rest of us in our family.

Life is definitely easier when Grandma or Nonna is in town.

It makes such a difference to be able to have someone else there to help the balance of cooking, cleaning, and helping to care for you and your brother. Three adults versus two kids is a more favorable ratio.

But as for now, we’re back to normal/crazy. So much for chocolate cake waiting for us when we get home.

Sometimes life just has to be a little crazy. We’ll just be crazy together.

Love,

Daddy

Parental Review- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Rated PG-13)

*May contain mild spoilers related to the plot.

If you’re considering taking your child to see Rogue One: A Stars Story, but aren’t sure if it would be age-appropriate, I am confident that I can give you closure. Here at the facts- from here, you can decide for yourself:

Profanity: None.

Sex/Nudity: None.

Violence: Constant, yet not bloody or gory.

As the title of the movie implies, Rogue One: A Stars Story is a war movie; perhaps more so than many other entries in the Star Wars franchise.

In particular, this is the story of the suicide mission leading up to the events of the original 1977 Stars Wars movie. By its nature, a movie about a suicide mission is likely going to feature countless on-screen deaths.

Parental Review- Rogue One: A Stars Story (Rated PG-13)

Granted, this is a Disney movie. So even with all the use of weapons (mainly lasers, grenades, and bombs), this is no blood bath. In fact, I don’t recall any blood- in the likeness of old Western movies where people are constantly getting shot and dying, yet there is no visible wound shown. The character simply falls to the ground after some sparks and smoke appear from the impact point.

So really, your decision whether or not to take your child to see Rogue One: A Stars Story comes down to your thoughts the violence aspect.

Again, there are no curse words- not even close to one. And as is typical with Star Wars movies, there are no sexual situations.

I say it really comes down to what your child has already been exposed to. If a movie like Captain America: Civil War is something you deem acceptable for your child to watch, which is another recent PG-13 Disney movie, then you will likely not have a problem with Rogue One: A Stars Story.

Thank you for visiting Family Friendly Daddy Blog and for reading my review today. I am hope you found it helpful.