Dear Holly: Summertime Fun with Your Cousins

3 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

The way I feel is that the word cousins is synonymous with summer.

Looking back on these pictures from your recent slumber party with your cousins, it’s obvious you made the most of your time that weekend.

You were so proud to be able to sleep in the same bedroom as your cousin Darla, who is the same age as you.

As for you crying for your parents? I heard of no such thing.

That’s because you were having way too much fun being a 3 year old girl!

I don’t even want to know what time you actually fell asleep…

Love,

Daddy

 

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The Weekend of My 20th High School Class Reunion: A Pedicure with My Wife, Contrasted by Almost Seriously Getting My Jeep Stuck in a Deep Mud Puddle!

After waiting 5 years since my last high school reunion, when unfortunately my wife couldn’t make it due to being in California at the time, I was so glad that she and I could go out on a date to my 20th high school reunion.

My wife came to my 10th high school reunion back in 2009; we were still technically newlyweds at the time:

And because of that, many of my classmates got to know her pretty well.

For the day of my 20th high school reunion, my sister and her husband volunteered to watch our kids the whole day (and night) so that we could really make the most of it.

So we started the day off right by going down to The Spa in Rainsville; where we both got pedicures.

(Last month while we were on family vacation, my wife took me along for a pedicure and I admit- I didn’t hate it. So I was open to the idea of going back.)

My wife jokes that I have “Berenstain Bear” toenails. She’s pretty much right. I need all the help I can get with it comes to my toes.

But afterwards, to balance things out, we took the Jeep out on the mud trails.

Now that I have been really putting the 4 wheel drive capabilities to the test, I have been heavily considering dropping a few hundred dollars to purchase a winch to put on my bumper; giving me the ability to pull myself out of mud.

Our most recent excursion, this past weekend, got us stuck in a puddle that was higher than the tires. Even with the Jeep already being in 4 wheel drive, I didn’t have enough power to drive myself out.

The Jeep was noticeably tilting to my side. It wasn’t a crazy thought that we might turn over into the deeper-than-I-realized mud water; basically a mini-pond.

Fortunately, my dad was sitting right next to me in the passenger seat, and told me to try putting it in reverse.

At this point, I knew not even to look to my left out the window, knowing that the muddy water had to be pretty close to reaching the glass.

I prayed: “God, please help us get out of here!”

The Lord answered my desperate and humble prayer.

But for the rest of my life, I will always look back at this event as nothing short of miraculous. That story could have very easily ended much differently:

With the Jeep being stuck there, miles from civilization; easily being an all-day event to get pulled out.

Thank God, though- we were delivered from the pit and no permanent damage was done to my Jeep; which is our officially family vehicle that I take the kids to school in every day and the vehicle that we take out of town trips in.

My dad happens to be the real life version of MacGyver. He had to figure out how to reattach the front mud guard under the bumper. It was a complicated task, but he was able to restore it back to normal.

(I still need to clean up the mud that started oozing through the drain holes in the floor of my Jeep, though!)

So when it comes to taking my prized possession in to the unpredictable muddy trails, I’m pretty sure I officially got this out of my system.

I’m a person who truly lives without fear. I don’t get anxious or nervous, and I definitely don’t get scared.

But in that pivotal moment of being helplessly stuck worse than I had ever been before, I was terrified!

I think I am going to retire from driving back on those trails- and just to be safe, I think I will still purchase the winch anyway!

As for the high school reunion, it just couldn’t have gone better! It was so well planned and we had a really good turn out.

I was happy to see how many people remembered my wife. It almost felt like she actually graduated high school with the rest of us; it felt so natural. (She also graduated high school in 1999; just on the other side of the country in Sacramento.)

Catching up with friends who have known me my entire life was such a rewarding experience. It was funny, at one point when we had our class picture taken, we were directed:

“Just stand next to who you normally do in these pictures!”

Sure enough, it was the same guys as it was in high school and our other reunions. We make up the section, “Guys who are the same height as the tall girls, but guys who aren’t necessarily considered short.”

For me, I care so much about my high school class reunions, they are truly a highlight of my life every 5 years. I really love the group of people I was fortunate enough to grow up with in the 1980s and 1990s.

The next morning for lunch, my wife and I were reunited with our kids, who thoroughly enjoyed their slumber party with their cousins the night before.

After a hearty lunch at Fontana’s, we made the 3 hour drive back to Tennessee. Our daughter was asleep by the time we made it to the interstate.

This weekend was just perfect. It will remain one of the best memories of my life.

I was surrounded by people I love and care about and have known a very long time.

That is what makes life good.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to read my blog post about my 20th high school reunion this past weekend, here’s your chance again.

Our 20th High School Class Reunion: Fort Payne Wildcats Class of 1999

 

We have arrived.

In an age of reboots, sequels, and of course, reunions, the timing was perfect for the Fort Payne High School Class of 1999 to have our 20th reunion!

Back in May of 1999, during the week of our high school graduation, we had our class picnic in our city park. Most of us were just 18 years old and didn’t really know, and couldn’t know, what we wanted to do with our lives.

We hadn’t yet figured out what we were really good at, or bad at, or how we would even earn a living.

But during the course of two decades, it sort of forced us to figure out who we were going to be. At now that we are all pushing 40, our lives are, for the most part, figured out.

If graduating high school was like putting the car in reverse, backing it out of the garage, putting it into first, and determining which of the endless roads we were supposed to start driving down…

Then making it to our 20th high school reunion is like having the car in cruise control.

Granted, for most of us, the road we took was not a straight and easy one. That road had many surprising turns. Often that road turned us right back around in the same direction we had already come from.

But by now, we are ultimately settled in for the rest of the ride. We’re not trying to figure out who we are anymore.

We know now.

So for this class reunion in particular, it was especially a milestone. For the first time, we were catching up with the grown up doppelganger versions of each other.

I also realized by attending my 20th high school reunion, that I was fortunate to grow up with a particularly special group of people, at a special time, in a special place.

We were born in 1980 and 1981; during the start of our town’s economic boom, as Fort Payne, Alabama became “The Official Sock Capital of the World”; thanks to our town’s massive hosiery production.

Not to mention, the country group Alabama had just become living legends… and they just happen to be from our little town, located in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains.

It was magical time and place to grow up. We are a close group of people.

Our class reunions are a really big deal to us and I am confident they always will be.

-Nick Shell

Dear Jack: What I Was Doing When I Was Your Age, 30 Years Ago, Back in the Summer of 1989

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

For every year older you get, it seems that much closer to my memories of my old childhood; since my memories are that much more elaborate the older I was.

So for me, it’s pretty easy to think back 30 years ago to the summer of 1989.

I remember I attended baseball camp. The main thing I remember is that Jonathan Shugart got hit in the head with a baseball.

I remember that was the summer that our town got a Taco Bell; because I went there for the first time in my life, after baseball camp; during the first week it opened.

And I definitely remember our whole family going to see the original Batman movie in the theater.

I remember that I was excited about starting 3rd grade, because it would be at a new school, where you were able to pick juice instead of just milk.

You’re going to have a great school year. I can tell you from experience.

I also can tell you that you won’t forget this summer, just as I didn’t forget my summer preceding 3rd grade. I’m sure getting the Jeep will help ensure that!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Now Own a 16 Year-Old T-Shirt with My Face on It, with My Name in Thai

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

We spent last weekend at Nonna and Papa’s in Alabama, at the same house I grew up in.

After you took a shower on Sunday morning, you realized you didn’t have a clean t-shirt to wear

I walked over my old bedroom to take a quick look at the t-shirts hanging up in the closet.

Instantly, I discovered the perfect t-shirt for you to wear:

Back in college, I had recorded 3 different albums of songs I wrote.

For the cover art on the first album in 2003, I traced a photo of myself as the logo.

Then, that summer of 2003 when I was teaching English in Thailand, I gave one of my CD’s to a friend there.

Accordingly, they had a t-shirt made with that logo of my face, with my name in Thai underneath it.

(Unfortunately, the size of the shirt didn’t come close to fitting me.)

There’s a good chance you are the only boy in America who owns a t-shirt with his Daddy’s face on it, along with his Daddy’s name in Thai underneath.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure of it, actually.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Got to See Toy Story 4- Your 1st Movie in a Theater

3 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

I couldn’t have planned it this way, but your brother was your exact age, to the month, when he got to go see his first movie at a theater.

For him, it was The Lego Movie.

For you, it was Toy Story 4.

You had been telling Mommy and me, “I like Woody… I like that other guy too- what’s his name?”

The first Toy Story movie came out in November 1995; when I was in 9th grade.

Now, more than 23 years later, you were able to see the final Toy Story movie (…or is it?) as your first movie in a theater.

I am so proud of you. You had so much fun.

It was sweet because you chose to spend the first half of the movie in my lap, and the second half in Mommy’s.

And here I was thinking I was just going to put sitting on the end of the row in my own little world.

I am so glad we took you to see Toy Story 4 in the theater!

Love,

Daddy

 

2019 Family Reunion in Lake Tahoe: Celebrating the Life of My Wife’s Father and Grandfather

In case you somehow didn’t know this by now, my wife is #9 of 10 kids. So every year, our official family summer vacation is going to visit as much of her family that can show up in the Sacramento, California area; which is where they all grew up and some still live.

And in case you’re not so familiar with the geography of Sacramento, it is in northern California; just a little over 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe, which also borders the neighboring state of Nevada.

This summer, Lake Tahoe served as the central meeting place for the family; this time to especially celebrate the life of my wife’s father (who passed away a couple months after we were married in 2008); as well as her grandfather Gus, who passed away last fall.

Everyone was given the opportunity to share memories and stories of both men. Being that I married into the family, I wasn’t planning on saying anything.

But when I was asked if I wanted to share something, after I had the opportunity to hear what everyone else said, I decided to speak.

I explained that my takeaway from what they all said about these two very important men in their family was this:

It was undeniable that these men sacrificed much for the sake of their family; even if they weren’t able to be appreciated or feel appreciated at the time.

That is often the theme of being a parent: that you often are unable to be truly appreciated as you give the most of your time, energy, and soul to the people you care for so much.

I appreciated being somewhat of a grafted-in outsider that day. I feel that it took that kind of perspective to understand myself better; coincidentally during Father’s Day weekend.

It was a truly good day.