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 Jack: We Saw WWE Wrestling at Monday Night Raw in Nashville on December 2nd, 2019

9 years.

#WWE

#WWENashville

@carbonhouse

Dear Jack,

Like clockwork, the moment you turned 9 years old (just a couple of weeks ago), you instinctively knew to trade in all of your interest and fascination of Pokemon, for WWE Wresting.

It’s amazing how much trivia you know about all the wrestlers already.

Mommy looked up online to see if by chance, a WWE event would be coming to Nashville anytime soon.

We were in luck: Monday Night Raw would be taking place at the Bridgestone Arena on December 2nd.

Needless to say, Mommy immediately bought the tickets (just $15 each)!

Your favorite wrestler is the masked Mexican-American living legend Rey Mysterio. Naturally, you had your hopes up that he would actually be at the event we would be attending.

When you looked up the roster the WWE website, he was not featured as one of the wrestlers for that night.

But our amazement, this past Monday night, we were pleasantly surprised when Rey Mysterio made multiple appearances throughout the night!

We could not have planned it that way had we tried.

The event started at 6:30 PM and it wasn’t over until 4 hours later! I had never been to a WWE wrestling event either, so I had no idea we would be getting so much bang for our buck.

It was definitely a coming of age milestone for you and I am so proud to have gotten to share it with you.

Love,

Daddy

We Saw Jason Isbell Perform at The Ryman in Nashville on October 22nd, 2019

Despite moving to the Nashville area over 14 years ago, I had never been to see a show at the legendary Ryman Auditorium.

Fortunately, my wife was able to score some free tickets to not just any show, but Jason Isbell!

I first became familiar with his music back a few years ago when I was heavy into reviewing cars here on my website. Whatever the vehicle they gave me to drive for a week, it always came with SiriusXM.

About half the time, I would keep it on an Alternative Rock station, for myself; and for the other half, I would have it on a Country station, for my wife.

Jason Isbell consistently appeared on both types of stations.

The first song I ever heard of his was Alabama Pines. It naturally caught my attention, as I quickly learned he and I are from the same home state and are about the same age.

Jason Isbell is one of the few modern musicians that my wife and I can agree on 100%. My wife describes him as Americana. I describe him as what good Country Music should sound like.

No obligatory mentions of pick-up trucks and girls wearing their boyfriends’ t-shirts.

Instead, he sings about life and death that make you feel like you’re both alive and dying at the same time.

My wife and I couldn’t have enjoyed the show anymore than we did.

I am convinced that our going to see Jason Isbell perform at the Ryman will be a milestone memory of our shared lives together.

How to Fix a Jeep Wrangler JK 6-Speed That Pops Out of Gear with a B&M 45195 Shifter Lever Kit: Plus, a 7 Hour Off-Road Test Drive Little River Canyon National Reserve!

You no longer have to worry about or wonder why your Jeep Wrangler JK 6 Speed randomly pops out of gear for no reason! And no, it’s not you.

It’s not that you’re accidentally not forcing the shifter all the way into 1st gear. And no, it doesn’t pop out of gear every day.

In fact, I handed over to the keys to my 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK to a local transmission shop, but after a week of the shop owner driving it on a daily basis, he handed the keys back: “I couldn’t find anything wrong with your Jeep.”

Fortunately, I have the answer you have been looking for! I will save you thousands of dollars, and, I will save your from cringing in anticipation every time you shift into first gear, doubting yourself as you wonder if the shifter will pop out of 1st before you can get it into 2nd.

Instead of rebuilding or replacing the transmission, the first (and likely last) place to start is buy purchasing and installing a B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195), which fits the 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK.

It will cost you a little over $500, plus hiring a mechanic who can install it for you; about 3 hours worth of labor.

It’s this simple: Chrysler didn’t make a strong enough shifter for the Jeep Wrangler JK.

Therefore, it’s pretty common for them to pop of out of 1st gear and to not always go into reverse.

I admit- I questioned whether this new upgrade would actually solve such a seemingly serious and potentially expense issue.

Therefore, after my dad spent about 3 hours installing the B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195), I took him and my mom on a trial by fire, off-road test drive. Just a few miles down the road from my parents’ house where I grew up on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama, there is a series of dirt roads that are part of the Little River Canyon National Reserve.

The main path is simply called 05; which extends from one end of the trail to the other. At certain points, you can cross Little River to get to another road like 02 or 04.

Keeping my 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK in 4 wheel drive, it was just no issue driving through giant mud puddles that stretched from one side of the road to the other; nor was it any struggle to cross the river itself.

We were gone from 10 AM until 6 PM, only stopping for one hour for lunch at Wildflower Cafe in Mentone, Alabama.

And during that solid 7 hour test drive, not once did it ever pop out of gear!

Not only that, my Jeep simply drives better since the upgrade. It’s as if the beast now has a new master!

Since the big test drive, I have also driven it 3 hours back to my home near Nashville, Tennessee; as well as to work and back a couple of days now.

It just doesn’t pop out of gear anymore. Not once. Problem solved.

I highly recommend the B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195). Tell ’em I sent ya!

-Nick Shell

Dear Holly: You Entertained Yourself on the Plane by Teaching Yourself What to Do If There was an Emergency

3 years, 1 months.

Dear Holly,

Since we flew on Southwest Airlines to and from California, there were no assigned seats. There were simply two rows of three seats on both sides- and we determined where we would sit.

Naturally, both you and your brother wanted to sit with Mommy. That meant I sat across the aisle from the three of you.

On the flight back to Nashville, you felt like being a little bit independent. You took it upon yourself to remove the emergency guide from the back of the chair in front of you and started reviewing all the steps of what to do in case the plane had to make a water landing.

To you, it was pretty much a comic book.

Love,

Daddy

Family Summer Vacation in Sacramento: Going to Chuck E. Cheese’s Instead of Disneyland

After spending the first half of our vacation at Lake Tahoe, our family spent the rest of the time closer to Sacramento; staying with my mother-in-law and her husband.

Selfishly, I didn’t mind at all because it gave me several consecutive days to sleep in; since there was never really any planned event or agenda happening before noon the rest of the week.

And after the long, early flight to California (we left Nashville at 2:00 AM), I was pretty much the equivalent of Weekend at Bernie’s for the first few days anyway.

Staying there in the Sacramento area provided more opportunities to visit with more family members, as well as long-time friends of my wife.

But of course, eventually our kids wanted to do something special; since after all, we were on vacation. I suggested putt-putt golf, which was something I kept seeing in Lake Tahoe.

But the kids wanted Chuck E. Cheese’s. It hadn’t crossed my mind since there’s already one just about 20 minutes from our house in Tennessee.

However, I realized how little it would cost us: Just about $13 total for unlimited games for 45 minutes for our whole family.

So I immediately agreed!

We were given what was essentially an infinitely loaded debit card only good for the currency of Chuck E. Cheese tokens.

So for 45 minutes, we frantically passed the card to each other; as ultimately, all four members of our family were constantly earning tickets to buy prizes the entire time.

The time limit actually made it even more fun and challenging for all of us, as we individually learned and decided which games we were best at winning tickets from.

By the end of our California family vacation, my wife suggested that maybe next year the kids will be old enough to visit Disneyland.

Maybe.

But I definitely wouldn’t mind Chuck E. Cheese again either.

Dear Jack: Your Week at Nashville Zoo Camp

8 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

You are one lucky kid. Last week, you got to spend 5 days of summer camp at the Nashville Zoo!

It was especially cool since you got to spend that time alongside your friend Duncan, who you have known since before you were born:

We were in birthing class with his parents back in 2010 when then two of you were still in the womb!

Needless to say, you had such a great time that we’ve already decided to send you back again next year.

Not to mention, your sister is already saying she wants to go in a few years once she is old enough!

Love,

Daddy