Dear Jack: Your 1st Week of 3rd Grade

8 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

You have now completed your first full week of 3rd grade. I told you going in to it, that this would be a very fun year.

I remember how I specifically liked 3rd grade the most out of every year in Elementary school. I truly think it will be the same way for you.

Last week when we went to the school to meet your teacher, you immediately were cool, calm, and collected.

She even said to Mommy and Me, “Yeah, didn’t you know? They automatically become cool the moment they walk through their 3rd grade classroom.”

Over the past three school years, you have really formed your identity, and therefore, your confidence.

Not to mention, Mommy and I can’t help but notice, you suddenly started looking like a pre-teen!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: You Helped Papa Clean My Super Dirty Jeep

3 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Part of my character arc and personal journey this year in 2019 is that I had to test out my new Jeep’s off-roading capabilities and my own abilities to drive it through some self-prescribed extreme conditions this summer.

After 3 really close calls in the span of 3 weeks, I finally decided I need to settle down a bit, knowing that I had truly broken in my Jeep.

With that being said, I got the Jeep really, really dirty… and muddy… and stinky.

But thanks to Papa visiting last week while I was at work, the two of you were able to help get my Jeep looking and smelling better than it ever has since I’ve owned it.

Good job!

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Holly: Your 1st Ever Slumber Party Sleepover!

3 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Last Saturday while Mommy and I were out all day for my 20th high school reunion, you got to stay all day and night at your cousins’ house; along with your brother, too!

It was not only your first ever slumber party, but also your first ever sleepover.

I was so confident that you were in good hands the whole time.

And I never questioned whether you were having fun, because… how could you not?

I was so proud the next morning when Mommy and I saw you again for an early lunch.

You were happy to see Mommy and me again. But also, I could tell you were so proud of yourself for being a girl and staying up late with your cousins.

Love,

Daddy

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: These are the Days of Halo Action Figures and Beyblades

8 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

These letters I write to you often serve as a bookmark to show you whatever you were into at that point in your life.

Therefore, I can positively tell you that these days, it’s Halo action figures and Beyblades that you’re into.

I have a rule that when you come home each day, you need to immediately find something to eat and find an activity to keep you occupied.

Here lately, you have spent much of your “during dinner prep” time has been carefully organizing your Halo action figures and ranking your Beyblades.

It seems like work to me. But to an 8 year-old boy, that translates as fun!

Love,

Daddy

Our 11th Wedding Anniversary: A Muddy Jeep Wrangler Ride and a Quaint Meal Out in My Hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama

After staying overnight as a family at the Hilton, I walked across the parking lot to work Friday morning; which was our actual 11th wedding anniversary. Then once I put in my 8 hours, we drove a quick 3 hours to my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama to spend our anniversary weekend.

Quite predictably, we went out Saturday morning to go looking for trouble in the Jeep, which we found a little too easily.

With the top off, we embarked on an unmarked dirt road full of questionable mud puddles. I didn’t consider that the mud will inevitably end up getting slung off the tires and inside the Jeep.

I was especially proud of the blob of mud that landed on the dashboard, right next to my hand on the steering wheel. My plan was to keep it there pretty much permanently, but with the hot July sun, it didn’t take too long to dry, harden, and fall off after a few more bumps in the Jeep.

That evening, my wife and I had the rare privilege of having free babysitters (family, of course!) to watch and feed our kids while we disappeared for a solid four hours.

My sister had suggested a mom-and-pop Mediterranean place called Fontana’s. It was exactly what we were looking for, but didn’t realize existed. It was the epitome of the word quaint; and therefore it was perfect.

I am already looking forward to going back there next weekend when we are back in town for my 20th high school reunion, which will be held just down the street from the restaurant.

So there you go. That’s the best way for a husband and wife to spend their 11th wedding anniversary.

Maybe one day we’ll go somewhere without the kids. But honestly, as long as the kids are young, we might as well let them have some fun too!