When You Reconnect with a High School Friend and It’s Like Picking Up Right Where You Left Off

I have no memory of actually meeting William Coulter. He transferred in from Colorado our junior year of high school and it seems we just immediately and effortlessly became friends.

We never even had a class together. But we ended up hanging out together a lot, as teenagers in a small mountain town in Alabama.

I think it started when we went to go see Adam Sandler’s new movie at the time, Big Daddy.

Then William came to some church youth function where the manager of Hardee’s donated hundreds of burgers to feed everyone. Yet still after the event ended, there were dozens of hamburgers left- and because I personally knew the manager, she gave me all the left overs to take home.

So I took two garbage bags full of unwrapped hamburgers to my house that night. William and I decided to make our challenge to eat a minimum of 24 burgers throughout the hours of the night.

We failed. But we ate more for breakfast that next morning.

There was also the time, on a very short notice and a whim, that we went on a road trip to Pensacola, Florida our senior year. Our high school had allotted us a few days to go look at colleges and we hadn’t used them up yet. So we hopped on a van and visited a very conservative college that we had no intentions on attending. (See the picture where he and I were buried in the sand from 1999.)

And thinking back on our adventures driving my parents’ Ford Aerostar minivan, equipped with paintball guns, out on back roads at night, it easily reminds me of the Alan Jackson song, “We got a little crazy but we never got caught…”

Now, we are both married and have two kids who are nearly the same ages. Another coincidence is that his wife’s name is Holly, while my wife and I named our daughter Holly. And our son’s middle name is William.

Last weekend, my dad officially unveiled his new playground, which he has been building for years now. After remembering that William and his family only live a little more than an hour away from my parents’ house, I invited his family over.

My sister’s family was there too; whose children are also in the same age range; a total of three 4 year-olds, two 9 year olds, and one 11 year-old. Our families ended up all being a perfect match, as expected.

William is one of those close friends where we always pick up right where we left off. We get older, along with our hilarious shared memories from high school.

But we relate to each other just as easily now in 2020, as we did in the late 1990s.

Hiking Gilliam Loop Trail and Pogo Ridge (9 Miles) in DeSoto State Park During Christmas 2019

Christmas 2019 was extra special in that my nephew Matt (who is in the Air Force, stationed on Mississippi) and my niece Sara (who is a school teacher in California) were able to spend the holidays with my family in Alabama.

With all the Christmas cargo we had to take down from where we actually live in Tennessee and then bring back from Alabama, my wife and I decided to take both her Hyundai Elantra and my Jeep Wrangler for the nearly 3 hour drive there.

For me, it was just an excuse to be able to serve as a Jeep tour guide during Christmas vacation. I started out by taking Matt and Sara (and their mother Jeanene) on a 23 mile drive along Little River Canyon on Christmas Eve.

And for the day after Christmas, I announced I would be heading up a 9 mile hike in a “hidden gem” of a trail in DeSoto State Park, called Gilliam Loop (which begins at Cabin 21)- or at least, my version of it.

Matt and Sara agreed to join me, with zero hesitation.

Gilliam Loop is actually a mountain biking trail, but if you know where to veer off the path, you can connect to Pogo Ridge.

Back in 1934, the Civilian Conversation Corps (known as CCC) built culverts along the trail, which runs parallel to Little River.

So it is really cool to see these 86 year-old structures still in place.

Pogo Ridge leads a crossing point of Little River itself. However, we opted not to cross through the river, which would have meant we would have had to hike the rest of the day in wet clothes.

Therefore, we took Exit 4 of the trail back to the Road 12.

When it was all said and done, we had hiked 9.25 miles in 3 hours.

Before heading back to the house, I took them by Howard’s Chapel; the church built into a giant rock, where the founding pastor’s ashes are contained.

Oh, and I failed to mention:

Christmas Week 2019 contained perfect Fall Weather, which allowed us to have this much fun!

I had the top off the Jeep the entire time, as the temperate remained in the 60s for most of the time.

It will be a Christmas I never forget!

My Wife and I Have Been Performing and Publishing Original Songs I’ve Written… Largely Due to Cancelling Netflix and as a Way to Overcome My Existential Crisis

Earlier this week I revealed the top 5 highlights of my 2019 in review: one of those is that my wife and I have been releasing songs that I have written. While I have published them on YouTube and shared them on Facebook, I have yet to really talk about the how and the why of it.

So here’s the story…

My wife and I both moved to Nashville to pursue music careers; she arrived in 2004 and I showed up in 2005. We met in 2006, starting dating in 2007, and got married in 2008.

Since then, my wife earned her Master’s Degree (2009), we had a son (2010), we become debt-free other than our mortgage (2013), we moved into a brand-new houses in the suburbs (2015), and we had a daughter (2016).

And then, my employer of 12 years shut down my branch, releasing about 40 people at the same time; giving us a 2 weeks’ severance pay and a hand shake.

For the next 6 months, while being a stay-at-home dad, I spent any free time I had on writing songs, and eventually releasing my newest song on YouTube, in 2018.

“Maybe It’s a Dream” is an autobiographical song exploring the concept of how “removed” from the human experience I felt after I started living my life with the knowledge that being offended or disrespected is always my own choice. It was me realizing how much of my time, energy, and emotions had been wasted on letting the free world affect my emotions, when it was my decision every single time.

Shortly after releasing that song, my 6 month stint as a stay-at-home dad/blogger/YouTuber ended when I gained employment at a Fortune 500 company; where I have been employed for more than a year and a half now.

That led to new inspiration for writing songs, as it ushered in my “existential crisis of 2019”.

My salary nearly doubled, putting my wife and me in a situation where we could finally start building our retirement. We are very grateful for all the help with investments, thanks to Charles Schwab.

This caused me to have to re-evaluate my identity, as I found myself at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid; no longer triggered by the fear or anxiety of money, or even my own emotions.

Therefore, I started coming to terms with my existential crisis (some would call it a midlife crisis); as I had basically reached all of my life goals before the age of 40.

My next song, written just a couple of months ago, would be called “Tripping on Existence”; which was my way of sorting out my experience. I found that going through an existential crisis at a younger age put me in a situation where few people I knew could relate; which only intensified my feeling of floating in the universe like Tony Stark in the trailer for Avengers Endgame.

There had been other songs I had written during my 6 months of unemployment, but that didn’t get released due to me getting a job.

One was called “Fort Payne, Alabama”; another autobiographical song addressing the paradox of how my hometown undeniably helped form my identity, yet ultimately prepared me to move away after college and live my own life in the next state over in Tennessee.

So after releasing that year-and-half year old song, I decided I wanted to include my wife on my final leftover song from 2018: “We’re Gonna Leave in the Morning”.

It was a song I written, fantasizing about being able to just “up and go” on a road trip to anywhere; just she and I.

This is a fantasy because we haven’t gone on a fun road trip without the kids, since… we had kids.

I finally got to show off my wife’s singing in one of my songs. I was so proud to share her with the world.

It is truly a song about us; written from my perspective. It is my version of a love song. A love song when you’ve been married for over a decade, have 2 kids, and live in the suburbs.

During the time we were rehearsing that song, I casually wrote a song called “The Meaning of Life”. We decided to record that as well; the song was barely a week old when we published it.

The song was me exploring the irony in that none of us asked to be born, yet it is up to us to determine individually what the meaning of life is, though we have no idea how long our lives will be.

My next couple of songs, which I determined I wanted us to record on that same night; were complete opposites in mood:

The loud and upbeat “(Subtitles) I Dare You Not to Fall in Love with Me” would serve as our very first true duet together; as the autobiographical song explores what was really going through our minds on the night we met: October 5th, 2006.

Meanwhile, the somber and reflective “You Won’t Remember My Name” was written to remind the listener how the default is often to arbitrarily make perceived enemies of the people on the other side of the political fence.

The last song of 2019 that my wife and I recorded is a cover of Patty Griffin’s “Long Ride Home”; imagining the regrets of a man at his wife’s funeral, after they had been married for 40 years.

This one was special because it served as my wife’s first solo of all the songs we performed together. I simply played guitar on this one, as I wanted to only showcase her amazing ability to sing.

I currently have 3 more originals that I have been practicing; likely to be released in January 2020.

There is the somewhat novelty Country tune, “Jeep Wrangler Theme Song”, explaining the micro-culture of Jeep Wrangler owners, along with our Jeep wave.

Another loud and fun song is “I Feel Like You Want Me to Care”, which points out the power (and humor) of refusing to give emotional control to others when they are eager to take it from you.

And lastly, I have an alternative rock power ballad (?) called “Shotgun”, addressing the ridiculously dangerous risk and gamble that two young people make when they choose to marry each other, for better or worse.

My wife and I both moved to Nashville a long time ago to pursue music. Could we have been doing this all along? Maybe.

But I don’t think it could have been this genuine, this mature, or this good.

We had to live more of our lives together first. We needed more life experience first. We needed to get to the point where we were financially set so we psychologically free to create and perform in the way we can now.

Ultimately, the gate opened as a side-effect of us choosing to cancel our Netflix subscription back in May of this year. That was what created the time and space for us to focus on these songs.

Our music is what happens when Netflix is out of the picture. That’s pretty interesting, actually.

Dear Holly: Your Brand-New Industrial Grade Playground Swing

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Holly,

Having a Papa who works at a playground equipment factory means that you when visit your grandparents’ house in Alabama, you have access to a backyard playground that is above and beyond the norm.

Last weekend, the debut of your brand-new industrial grade swing was revealed.

You loved it so much, you just didn’t want to stop swinging in it.

At one point, you swung in it for a solid hour and a half before Mommy said it was time to go in for dinner.

You have the Cadillac of all playground swings for a 3 year-old girl!

Love,

Daddy

Our Family Visited the “Down On The Farm” Pumpkin Patch in Rainsville, Alabama

The very next day after our family Jeep drive to Noccalula Falls for our son’s Fall Break, we took an even shorter drive from Fort Payne, Alabama; to the neighboring town of Rainsville to check out their “Down On The Farm” pumpkin patch.

While we indeed go to a pumpkin patch every fall as a family, there’s a chance this might have been our kids’ favorite.

I think this had a lot to do with how the whole place was pretty much one big fall-themed playground.

The highlight would certainly have to be what my kids referred to as the “corn swimming pool”. They enjoyed taking turns going down the slide… into a pool of corn. It was also fun to get buried in the cool pool, as well; similar to getting buried in the sand at the beach.

So check out these pictures of the fun our family had if you are considering visiting “Down On The Farm”. I have a feeling your family will have a great time too!