Dear Jack: Your Possible New Part-Time Pet Named Whiskers (or Oliver?)

5 years.

Dear Jack,

Dear Jack: Your Possible New Part-Time Pet Named Whiskers (or Oliver?)

Last weekend while we were in Alabama visiting my side of the family for Thanksgiving weekend, Mommy and I went on our usual 2 mile morning walk that we always do when we go there.

As we were half way through our route, a little black kitty started following us; desperately meowing as if to say, “Won’t somebody take care of me? I’m so hungry. I don’t have anyone.”

I kneeled down and petted the cat, then we continued on our walk. It followed us briefly, but then couldn’t keep up.

Fifteen minutes later, as Mommy and I rounded back down that road, the little black kitty was waiting for us.

We didn’t slow down, as we assumed there was a good chance it actually lived on that road. But this time, the cat kept its speed; even though we were ignoring it the whole way back.

Once we arrived back at Nonna and Papa’s house, we soon realized the difficulty of even trying to feed the kitten; as your grandparents don’t have any meat; much less, cat food, in their house.

So Mommy suggested we beat an egg, and serve it in a bowl to the kitten. It worked.

It was obvious the cat was in great need of nutrition. Throughout the day, I cut some slices of cheese I found in the refrigerator and feed it to the kitty.

To everyone’s surprise, we woke up and the little black kitten was still there; asleep on the back porch where we had fed it the eggs and cheese.

After all, he apparently had nowhere else to be or to go.

For the record, we did attempt to feed the kitten some of our food, which is vegan and vegetarian, but the cat was uninterested; after all, felines are carnivores, not omnivores.

So Nonna had me run in to the local grocery store and buy some official cat food.

His name, according to you, is Whiskers.

However, Nana likes the name Oliver; and she, along with Papa, will be the ones actually taking care of him.

And yes, it is a him; as seen in my new web series, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest. Last night as we were watching the 3rd webisode, you announced, “Hey Daddy, look… I can see his nugget pouch!”

(Previously you had asked me how I knew he was a boy cat, so I explained that his “nugget pouch” under his tail was how I could tell.)

“Kitty,” as he is known on my show, apparently will be a by-default regular supporting cast member (like Gunther on Friends).

In addition to being part of the main plotline of the “Freddie the Fox” webisode, he also is undeniably present in the opening montage of my new show.

I never intended for him to be part of the show, but he just kept showing up during filming, so I wrote him into the script.

You and your cousin Calla definitely enjoyed having him around this past weekend. If he sticks around Nonna and Papa’s place, he just might end up being your part-time pet each time we visit there.

Love,

Daddy

Finding Favor is Better than Being Lucky

Luck vs. destiny.

Here in Nashville, a phrase that pretty much instantly started annoying me the first time I heard it was “networking”.  “It’s all about networking”, say the people who claim to know how struggling musicians become stars.  And they’re right.  It’s all about who you know.  Of course talent and experience have something to do with it too. 

But it’s one thing to know the right people, and another to find favor with them.  To stand out and to be special in their eyes.  By doing a quick Google search of the phrase “found favor Bible”, it becomes pretty apparent that finding favor with the right person, or with God, dramatically altered a person’s life throughout Jewish and Christian history:

Joseph found favor with Potiphar.  Esther found favor with King Ahasuerus.  Daniel found favor with the Babylonian king.  Noah, David, and Mary found favor with God.  In all of these people’s lives, their careers as well as their social and spiritual roles would never the same (in a good way) after finding favor.

Therefore, a staple request in my daily prayers is to find favor with the right people(As well as for wisdom!)  While I do believe it’s important to pray specifically for my future life plans, I also am adamant on trusting God in all the unseen blessings, detours, and surprises that come packaged with them.  Because those unseen elements in life often carry the most weight, more so than the ones we plan or have any control over. 

Finding favor with people doesn’t necessarily mean being charming, suave, or slick.  I think back to a much underrated movie I admit I really like, despite the fact it’s technically a “chick flick” and it seems no one else has ever seen it: Little Black Book, starring Brittany Murphy and Holly Hunter.  A certain quote from this movie really sticks out in my mind and conveniently ties in to the current subject matter: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” 

What others may see as luck, I choose to see as divinely ordained favor, where God appoints a person in our lives to grant a good opportunity.  That’s my version of luck. But of course, in all the Biblical cases where someone found favor with God or the right people, the favored person had already done their part to be qualified.  Noah was already a righteous man.  Mary was already a righteous woman.  Then God used them for great things. 

They may not have had the proper experience yet, but they had the right relationship with God and had paid their dues in the mundane stuff of life.  Then, it happened.  The Big Event began and they finally became active in the role they had prepared for their entire whole lives to fulfill.

Animalspeak Volume 1: Why are Animals Able to Talk in Cartoons?

One of my pleasures in my life is pointing out the universally accepted concepts that surprisingly no one ever questions. The majority of children’s animated TV shows and movies involve talking animals. We have simply accepted this as “make believe”. Okay. But what I can’t accept is that fact there is no explanation as to how the animals gained the ability to talk.

Was it a magic spell? Extreme intelligence? Possession? And did the same thing that made the cast of the Lion King able to speak also enable the cast of Looney Tunes to speak as well? And sometimes animals interact through speech with humans like it’s no big deal. If I found a talking animal I would definitely exploit it for all it’s worth.

There has to be a physical explanation for this. But I just can’t see it. Even if an animal had the intelligence to speak, most animals don’t have the physical features necessary to do so. For example, how could a cat say the word “brother” since cats don’t really have lips? It would sound like “rother”.

Also, the other hole I have found in this concept of talking animals is that their voices would sound nothing like they do on Disney movies. By doing a quick search on “talking cat” on YouTube, I can watch a cat saying “I love you” but it sounds more like “rye row yoo-oo-ow”. And its voice has the same sound and tone as when a cat meows. It doesn’t sound like a man or woman’s voice.

Life can be disappointing sometimes.

The Way a Name Sounds Compared to How a Name is Spelled

My name is… My name is…

Some people have long, complicated names. Like Ben Roethlisberger. Or M Night Shyamalan. I’ll even throw Weird Al Yankovic in that category. But just because a name is short, that doesn’t mean it’s not complicated. My name, in theory, is very simple. Especially when it’s written down.

But when it’s simply spoken, especially over the phone, to someone who has never heard my name before, they usually don’t get it right on the first try. Some popular variations include, but are not limited to the following, in all possible combinations:

Mick Shale
Mike Snell
Rick Schell
Nicky Shaw
Nic Snow
Mickey Show
Nate Shelton
Ned Shells

Because when all a person has to go on is what they simply hear, they are working with a muddled form that sounds literally like this: “Nicgtkahshelahw”.

I remember how fascinated I was when someone pointed out to me about ten years ago that often, when we say a word, we don’t correctly pronounce it, because we can get by without doing it clearly. When we say “cat”, we pronounce it “caaa”. We leave off the “t”. I had to practice a few times at first. Then I realized it’s true.

But if we are sure to emphasize the “t”, the word “cat” literally sounds more like this: “cattuh”. We tend not to hear the extra syllables we add on to the end of words. And we make a habit of leaving off the strong consonant sounds on the ends also, as previously mentioned.

I wonder, too, what mental image my last name gives people. Personally, I’ve always envisioned a turtle shell, hence the picture of a turtle at the top of this site. But people usually tell me they think of “a seashell at the ocean”. When in truth, “schel” is simply the German word for “loud and noisy”, which over time evolved into “Shell”. It would be nice to imagine my ancestors were a bunch of cool hippies hanging out at the beach. But in reality, not so much.

Secretly, some sort of picture pops up in my head for everyone I know- as soon as I hear their last name. I’m taking requests, actually. For those who send me a request on facebook I will reveal my mental image for their name.

I expect no one to actually do that, though. That would be like getting sucked into the TV screen.  It’s what we in the theatre world call “breaking the 4th wall”.

hello-my-name-is

People are the Meaning of Life, Part 4

The funny thing about enemies is that sometimes they end up becoming our friends later on. Once we trudge past the hurt, forgiveness, awkwardness, new beginning, and a block of time that helps wash away the instant stigma that used to come to mind when we would think of them, we can find ourselves in a situation where we almost think to ourselves, “What did we use to fight about, anyway?”

We as a nation have hated England, Germany, Italy, and Japan in past wars. But now it’s hard to imagine considering any of those countries as enemies, because in my lifetime, they have only been friends of America. Ironically, our country now depends on our relationships with them- not just in military alliances but also in trade.

I feel like I’m the only person in history who actually saw Mel Gibson’s 2006 movie Apocalypto, in which the concept is “there will always be an enemy, whether it’s within one’s self, in his village, in his nation, or outside his nation”. That idea is something I have kept in mind when I find myself brewing against a person who doesn’t see things the way I do, whether the other person is clearly wrong or not. Knowing that on any other day, it just as easily could be me that’s a hazard to myself, because I woke up that morning subconsciously deciding that day would suck because I thought it was Saturday but it was Thursday instead.

Ultimately, the lesson I have learned from dealing with “enemies” is this: It’s always a humbling experience. Being humbled is painful and uncomfortable, like be pushed into a swimming pool in the winter with my clothes on. And to be humbled is to be humiliated, to some degree. Because sometimes the only way to move past the antagonistic part of a relationship with a person is to stop trying to show them that they really are wrong and instead adopt this new branding of “we’ve both been wrong/we’ve let things get out of control/this has just been a big misunderstanding”. That goes against everything inside of me, but has proven the most effective way for me to have one less enemy and gain one more ally.

The Enemies we encounter in life, for the most part, are here to enhance our lives. As we learn to deal with them, we learn to better communicate and react to Bigger Enemies, along with treating our family and close friends better as well. People are the meaning of life, and annoyingly, even our Enemies help that to be true.

dog rat cat