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

2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport with Top Off, Doors Off: Family Drive Along Little River Canyon Rim Parkway in Fort Payne, Alabama

For Memorial Day weekend, we started things off right on Saturday morning by refusing to take showers, but instead, throwing on hats and sunglasses and hopping in our Jeep Wrangler.

This made the very first time I took off not only the complete top, but also, the doors too. As you can imagine, it was a great family experience.

It was like going on a roller coaster ride! And yet Little River Canyon Rim Parkway is only 5 miles from my parents’ house, where I grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama.

This 16 mile drive along the canyon and river is a well kept secret, yet the perfect place to take the family in a Jeep Wrangler.

Dear Holly: You Ate Your Cupcake Like a Little Kitten

2 years, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend as we visited my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama for their annual Boom Days celebration, we stopped in a cafe called The Spot. Your brother chose ice cream as his treat, but you weren’t interested.

Instead, you grabbed a cupcake with blue frosting on one side and purple on the other.

As we sat down, you carefully unwrapped the plastic, then just became stoic as you discreetly enjoyed the cupcake; like you were getting away with something extra special.

It was like watching a little kitchen eat a cupcake.

You were so committed to finishing every last crumb, that by the end, you put your face down in it as if were you a contestant in a pie-eating contest.

That must have been some cupcake!

Love,

Daddy

What It Was Like Meeting Cat Deeley, Both Times, on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year”

Other than the lead singer of the country group Alabama, Randy Owen, whose son Heath is my age, I had never actually met anyone famous before. (I grew up in Fort Payne, Alabama; the same hometown as the group, during the 1980s and 1990s, which was the prime time of their success).

Honestly, I’ve never been the kind of person who has been too caught up in meeting celebrities. Since 2005, I’ve lived in the Nashville area, where you assume that everyday you’re unknowingly standing in the same room as some successful musician or songwriter.

But the way I’ve always perceived it, I felt it would be dehumanizing to reduce a celebrity to approaching them in an attempt to get their autograph, or these days, a selfie.

That’s why back on Valentine’s Day 2010, when I just happened to be in the Cool Springs Whole Foods getting flowers for my wife, and Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman where there having lunch, I did my best to pretend I didn’t see them.

Granted, I immediately texted my wife a picture from far across the store where Keith and Nicole hopefully didn’t catch me, but still… I had no interest in going up to them and making a fool of myself and saying, “Uh, hey, uh, Keith, man… I love your songs, man… that one where you talk about driving a car… and Nicole, you were my favorite part about the Val Kilmer Batman movie…”

But now, I have officially met a world-famous celebrity. And let me secret the record straight: She is the real deal.

I’m referring to Cat Deeley, the host of So You Think You Can Dance, and now also, This Time Next Year; the show where I made my TV debut this week.

In case you’ve seen my episode, “Dudes From Different Latitudes”, you know that I met Cat Deeley twice; with a year in between.

She truly is an exceptional human being. I can see why she was chosen as the host for this show; serving both as a sympathetic cheerleader and a bright narrator.

Granted, I was the token comic relief for my episode, as the other 5 guests on my episode had deep, heart-felt stories. So when it came time to meet me on the show, she had to shift her role to reflect the quirkiness of my personality and the novelty of my year-long goal.

I have to say, I wasn’t nervous at all. But had I been, she would have put my nerves at ease. That’s one of her many talents.

When we shot the first part of the episode out in some nameless, mysterious studio in Hollywood in November 2016, the director had Cat and I redo the end of the scene.

That’s because right before I stood up to go walk out that magical door for my year-long journey, she hugged me in support of my goal.

But the moment after I walked through the overly illuminated door, I was greeted by the producer, who explained with a smile, “You did great! But I’m being told we have to reshoot that last part. Cat hugged you. She’s not supposed to hug anyone on the show.”

So we redid that part, and this time, she remembered not to hug me. But right before they pressed record, during those couple of seconds where no one could hear what she was saying but me, she told me, “You’re freakin’ awesome.”

I share that story because it illustrates how warm and encouraging her personality is. I also sensed that was her way of saying, “I could use a laugh right about now,” in the midst of all the serious stories she had been hearing that day.

If so, I’m glad I could brighten her day, as she surely brightened everyone else’s.

Even if it’s a long shot, I hope she’s reading this now. I want her to know what an amazing job she’s done as a host on This Time Next Year.

And that’s the case with all the other people who were featured on the show with me. We all spent a lot of time together and got to learn each other’s stories. This was a common theme in every conversation:

“Wasn’t Cat just great? She has such a way of making a person feel comfortable and natural.”

So yes, that’s what we were all saying about her. And that’s what I’m saying about Cat Deeley again today.

Honestly, it would be my dream to co-host with her someday.

If nothing else, I can now officially say I have met a famous person. Plus, she handed me my guitar.

Yes, a famous person, who is really really cool, touched the same guitar I played the song “Dudes From Different Latitudes” on.

I think I’ll be bragging about that for a while.

Dear Jack: Carving the Halloween Jack-o’-lantern for the Thanksgiving/Hike at DeSoto Falls with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

After having ventured to Gentry’s Farm to get our family’s pumpkin to carve for Halloween, we just didn’t get around to actually carving it in time. So we took it to Nonna and Papa’s nearly a month after Halloween… for the wrong holiday.

Papa then built a bonfire in the backyard to extend the feeling of pumpkin carving season.

Since your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca were visiting from Pensacola, we also spent part of Thanksgiving break to introduce them to DeSoto Falls; not that far from where I grew up.

I’m fortunate to be from such a cool outdoorsy town (Fort Payne, Alabama), as it is not the average hometown to spend the holidays in. I was very proud to be able to entertain your aunt and uncle by showing them the giant waterfall up on the mountain.

It’s especially neat because we were able to get pretty close to the water, but kept from certain danger thanks to some guard rails.

While we were enjoying the views, we looked up and saw a few drones flying above us. I imagine it must be an awesome place to fly one around; as long as it doesn’t get caught in the rapids.

I have to assume in a just a few years, you’ll be asking for a drone for your birthday or Christmas, as compared to just Pokemon cards like you are currently obsessed with.

Turns out, your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca enjoyed their Thanksgiving visit so much, they decided to drive back up from Florida again for Christmas- and this time they are bringing their teenage daughter who you enjoyed spending time with at Uncle Jake’s wedding in San Diego last year.

Whatever we all end up doing during our 5 days in Alabama for Christmas, I know we’re all going to have a great time!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: How You Got Papa to Buy You a Fursians Stuffy at Addie Kate’s (with No Words Exchanged!)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: How You Got Papa to Buy You a Stuffy at Addie Kate’s with No Words Exchanged

Dear Jack,

As we walked down the closed main street of my hometown of Fort Payne for their annual Boom Days festival, you saw that I was catching up with some classmates I haven’t seen in 17 years. You knew it would be a while; as you stood there holding Papa’s hand and while Nonna held your baby sister.

So you discreetly tugged on Papa’s arm, asking him to go with you to Addie Kate’s, a store across the street.

I saw this happen peripherally, thinking to myself, “Why would Jack want to go into that store? It doesn’t look like there’s anything for kids in there.”

About 20 minutes later, you and Papa emerged from the store. Turns out, Addie Kate’s does have something kids would want.

You proudly lifted up a new “stuffy”… a Fursians snow leopard named Slushy, with a huge tail but tiny legs.

“Look at what Papa got me!” you excitedly announced, as Papa stood next to you attempting to hide a smirk.

Papa explained, “Yeah, and he didn’t have to even ask me for it. He just looked around at the stuffed animals, picked up the one he liked the most, and looked up at me with those eyes. Then I walked up to the counter and paid for it.”

I couldn’t stop laughing, yet I wasn’t surprised.

It is hilarious to imagine that whole process.

You then admitted, “Daddy, I saw some stuffed animals in the window, from the street where I was standing.”

Your plan worked: See toy. Take Papa into store. Speak no words. Exit with toy.

Yes, you are a clever boy. I’m guessing from the moment we left Nonna and Papa’s house for downtown, that you had already reminded yourself to look for an opportunity to find a toy for your grandparents to buy you. I have to give you credit for your dedication to a plan clearly worked.

Love,

Daddy