Dear Jack: Your 1st Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

4 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday you had your first ever soccer game! It might be expected for me to tell some high energy story where you scored a goal, in which I feature a picture of you kicking the ball into the net in a very pivotal moment in the game…

However, my goal for you last Saturday was a bit different: “Jack, just finish the game.”

I promise I’ll never be that stereotypical 1990s TV dad who tries to get his son to live out his own sports career dreams.

It doesn’t matter to me if you decided after this season that you never wanted to play on a soccer team again.

I just want you to be able to know that you gave it a shot so that you could decide for yourself whether you truly like soccer or not.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

You have good soccer skills, as demonstrated in your practices with Mommy and me in our driveway and even at the soccer field right before the actual game began on Saturday.

The thing getting in your way is that you don’t want to be forced to play soccer in front of other people… with other people.

Therefore, my goal for you will simply be for you to join the rest of the kids on the field by choosing to at least chase the ball around.

I say that because you just stood there, looking at the ground. It was pretty hilarious, actually. I shot this video of you doing the kick-off; you kicked the ball, then just waited and watched the other kids chase the ball as to say, “Alright, my job’s done here.”

It sure beats being the couple of kids who cried their way off the field and never finished.

Your challenge isn’t physical; you are very skilled in that department. Your challenge is a social one. (Not to mention, it was only 36 degrees outside!)

Granted, you are only 4 years old, so I think it’s only natural that you’re not eager to prove your physical skills on the field before a live audience.

If your coach and I can help you overcome your “stage fright”, then I can feel you really got something out of your first soccer season.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Your cousin Calla (and Aunt Dana and Uncle Andrew) drove up from Alabama to see you. We carpooled in their Toyota Highlander.

To help us find the way to the soccer field, you had painted us a map with your watercolors. You also made sure to bring along your newest stuffed animal, Spot; a $5 purchase from Kohl’s.

So we’ll see how the rest of the season goes. I just want you to have fun. I think after a few more games, you’ll start coming out of your “shell.”

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Get it? Because our last name is Shell?

Meanwhile, at your school this week, your teacher Ms. Aimee gave me a fun update:

Here are some photos of Jack from today! We had a blast playing outside with chalk! 

My favorite photo is the grumpy face, I couldn’t help but take it when I looked at him.

“Ms. Aimee, I can’t draw my picture!”

“Oh, why not hun?”

“Because, you’re STANDING on it!”

I about died laughing, while evilly taking his picture… hehe.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Looking ahead, we’ve got Easter coming up. I’m sure it will be great family fun! I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter to you…



Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:




Quad Cities Proximity Initiative: Pretending You Know Where a City Is

Most Americans don’t know the capitol of Vermont or which states border Colorado, without cheating and looking at a map. Because like taking French or Spanish in high school, if what is learned is not applied on a semi-regular basis, then that knowledge disappears. Especially when it was just rogue memorization for a test we took a long time ago.

Since we don’t really know much about American geography, we use a system that gets us by. It gives the illusion that we are experts, when really we are just BS-ing our way through the conversation. I call it the “Quad Cities Proximity Initiative”. Most states consist of a minimum of four cities that we’ve at least heard of that pretty much cover the 4 corners of the state, even if we’ve never been to that state before; here are a few examples:

Ohio (Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland).
New York (New York City, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany).
Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Miami).
Georgia (Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Savannah).

Here is an example of how this system works. The other day at work a guy from Indiana was trying to tell me where his hometown is. He said, “It’s about 50 miles south of Indianapolis…” Immediately I started shaking my head with an enthusiastic “oh yeah, yeah” which unabridged, it literally conveyed this message, “I am very familiar with the city you are talking about. I’ve been through there several times. Of course I know that place…” All because I have obviously heard of the state’s capitol, Indianapolis.

There are exceptions to the Quad Cities Proximity Initiative. Texas is huge and has more than 4 familiar cities; it has about 7. And there are those bite-size states like Delaware, where it doesn’t matter what city the person says, because the state only has 3 counties anyway.

When a person names a city I’ve heard of (even if I have no clue where in the state that city is) I give them confidence in me that I am following their lead in the conversation. It’s that simple. No need to stall a conversation because I can’t visualize where the city is. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Unless I’m driving there.