Dear Jack: To You, a Person’s Hair or Eye Color is Just as Much (or Little) as a Defining Trait as Their Skin Color

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: To You, a Person’s Hair or Eye Color is Just as Much (or Little) as a Defining Trait as Their Skin Color

Dear Jack,

While we spent this past weekend at Nonna and Papa’s in Fort Payne, Alabama, I made a comment about how your baby sister Holly is so pink. Just by being out under the overcast, cloudy sky for a few hours on Saturday, she managed to get a bit sunburned; which made her an even darker shade of pink than she naturally is.

After you heard me say a few times that your sister is the color pink, you thought back to the bedtime song I taught you, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious is His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Wanting to learn more about how people can be different colors, you asked me, “Daddy, who is white?”

I attempted to explain, holding a white piece of paper up to my tan arm: “Well, my skin color is called white, but as you can see, there’s a lot of difference in my skin color and this piece of paper. It’s more like everybody is a shade of brown.”

Your next question was directed to Papa, as you noticed his skin is even tanner than mine; and definitely darker than yours or your sister’s:

“Papa, are you black?” you asked in complete sincerity and innocent curiosity.

The fact you are nearly 6 years-old and still don’t know the generic colors that society identifies as is because I haven’t made a point to explain it to you. I haven’t seen a reason to.

On your own, you have recognized that certain people have darker skin than you, but it’s never been exclusive to someone who is of any certain race.

For example, one of your teachers is from Pakistan; you know that she has very dark skin, but you don’t know what her race is; nor do you care.

From what I can tell, a person’s hair color or eye color is just as much (or little) as a defining trait as their skin.

Love,

Daddy

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What Makes a Person “Normal”?

I’m asking, since I surely don’t know from personal experience.

Just like finding out what it takes to be cool, the search for a “normal” person is another somewhat abstract search in which perception determines the outcome.  Being normal can be seen as a bad thing, as synonyms may include “average”, “unexciting”, “boring”, “drab”, “dull”, or “unoriginal”.  But in a society where sometimes the desire to be noticed by being different becomes pretty obvious and predictable within subcultures (example: goth, emo, the regular cast of L.A. Ink, etc.), I have discovered a new appreciation for “normal” people in my life.  In fact, I see being normal as an admirable thing- though for me, it’s a pretty unattainable goal.

On the surface, my life would seem pretty normal and American.  Out of college, I got an office job, got married at age 27, and now I am having a kid at age 29.  I am not involved in anything that could be deemed crazy, extreme, or dramatic.  And it’s not that I made it a point for my life to appear so normal, it just happened that way.  But if my life was a reality show (which I would never sign on to- that means you, TLC), it would become obvious very quickly how my quirks alone would disqualify me from being normal.  Yet maybe that’s why America is obsessed with reality TV- because it breaks down people whom we may consider to normal, and we like that because it reaffirms to us that it’s normal to not be normal.

In preparation for writing this post, last Saturday during breakfast I had my wife help me think of the most normal people we know.  We were able to come up with four. One of them is a guy named Jon, who I work with.  So when I mentioned to him yesterday that he is one of the most normal people we know, he laughed and said, “Well it’s good to know that somebody thinks I’m normal”, implying “…if you only knew…”

So far, as I’ve asked people on facebook and in real life what makes a person normal, not one person has volunteered to admit that they are normal.  The typical response is to quickly search their family tree and circle of friends to find a candidate for normalcy, only to put the rare “normal person” in the same mystical category of unicorns and that flying dog thing from The Never Ending Story.

It’s just not normal to be normal.  And ironically, if you truly are normal, that makes you a little weird.  Below are The Rules of Being Normal, followed my some feedback from facebook on what makes a person normal.

The Rules of Being Normal

1) Look normal.  When thinking of normal people I know, I disqualified one guy simply for being “too good looking”.  And another for being under the age of 40 and having an ironic mustache. In the same way that Jesus’ physical appearance kept him from standing out from his Jewish countrymen, so must a normal person not be found regularly standing out from the crowd, in order to be considered normal.

2) Act normal.  Being relevant has a lot to do with it.  And well-rounded.  It means being able to participate in conversations that even when you don’t know a lot about the subject, you don’t make it obvious.   And you don’t have to always dominate the conversation by bringing up something bizarre in an effort to contribute and feel a part of the group- because that definitely alienate you instead.

3) If all else fails, keep someone close to you who is definitely not normal or a lot less normal than you. If my wife was weird, no one would ever know it because she’s married to me.  By simply being the “most normal” person in a group of people who aren’t normal, you by default become normal.  And that counts.


Nick Shell Friends, I need your help again with another post I’m writing. Think of the most normal person you know. Now, what makes a person “normal”?

October 27 at 8:02pm ·  ·  

    • Cyn Z.-  I think that depends…if you are referring to what society deems “normal,” then it is usually a very boring, uninteresting, mundane type of person…in my opinion. “Normality” has never been a good selling point for me concerning anyone…

      October 27 at 8:37pm ·  · 
    • Brad J.- goes with the standards set by society

      October 27 at 9:46pm · 
    • Amy S.-  I have no idea, but I’m curious to see what you come up with!

      October 27 at 10:07pm · 
    • Nickie R.-  maybe a good balance in life and no crazy extreeme ways of living? atleast this makes sense in my head.

      October 27 at 11:19pm · 
    • Ashley R.-  Yeah I think someone normal would be the you know 9 to 5 person, simple easy life, laid back.

      October 27 at 11:46pm · 
    • Jason L.-  its gotta be me Nick…I put my pants on like everybody else in life..I hold them up in front of me and a little low and I jump repeatingly until I have both feet in. I do this with my shoes on and a parakeet in my mouth every morning..now that’s normal

      October 28 at 12:00am · 
    • Tiffanie B.-  normal means 2 things to me either they blend in with everybody else & don;t stand out or you look at them & think they do what society thinks they should:)

      Saturday at 9:46pm · 
    • Benji R.- Normal person in my opinion must be someone who has respect and to be proud in themselves even in the different society or status..That’s very important for being normal.

      Sunday at 1:05pm ·

The Replay Value of People

People will come and go, but which ones are worth bringing back out of the archives?

There are some movies I watch nearly once a month like I Love You, Man and they never get old, and they’re just as funny as the last time I watched them.  There are other movies like Deliverance, for which I got all I needed with just one viewing.  The same could be said about TV shows: Seinfeld and Friends reruns are much easier to watch for the 6th and 7th time; as for American Idol, for obvious reasons, not so much.  When it comes to “replay value”, people are the same way.

We live and work and play and hang out with some people for years, then, all of the sudden, they are no longer a part of our lives- we graduate high school or college, they decide to work somewhere else, etc.  And after they leave, when we randomly think of them, we are left with an aftertaste of what they meant to us, as a whole.  Generally positive or generally negative.  Either worth the time and effort to catch back up with, or not.

Out of the dozens of contacts in my cell phone, I only regularly talk to a handful or so.  Out of the nearly 800 facebook friends I’ve collected since March 2005, I only regularly talk to a few dozen.  Out of the people I used to work with, there is only one or two that I still keep in contact with.  By subconscious default, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have enough significance in my life to bother with talking to again, past just the ‘hi, how are you’ line?”

We make time for the people we care about, not excuses.  And I know that just as I have left certain people of my past, in the past, I am aware that there are those who view me as “non-replayable” as well.  Like when an old college friend announces that they’re coming to Nashville next weekend on their facebook status, then I send them a private message inviting them to lunch or dinner over the weekend, they ignore my message, spend the weekend in Nashville, then once they return to their hometown, announce as their facebook status, “Had a great weekend in Nashville!”

And then I say to myself, “I get it.  I’m not replayable in their life.  Noted.”  I don’t take it personally.  I may not be worth their time or effort, but I have confidence that I am worth other people’s.

Figuring out who is at all replayable in your life is kind of like going through your closet to decide which clothes you should keep and which ones you should give away.  If you won’t wear that shirt in the next year at least once, you probably won’t ever wear it.  Same thing with people in your life.  If you wouldn’t answer or return their call, or if you would never make an effort to contact them again in the future, if you don’t even find their facebook statuses to be amusing, it’s safe to say you’re just not that into them: They don’t have replay value in your life.

dad from day one: Actor Turned Director

Twenty-nine weeks.

It took me 12 straight days to teach myself to solve the Rubik’s Cube; it was during this time that my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby.  Of course, we didn’t tell anyone until over a month later, but during my “learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube” phase, I had several people crack themselves up with this joke: “If you’ve got the time and patience to solve that thing, it’s time for you to have a kid!”  And they were right.  My instincts were making it obvious that like so many actors, the time eventually arrives when it’s time to dabble with directing.

(Cue the song “In My Life” by The Beatles as the proper soundtrack as you read the rest of this post.  It’s officially my favorite song ever.)

I can look back on my life with satisfaction, knowing that my accomplishments have outweighed my failures and regrets.  I have met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world (most of whom are facebook friends).  I understand the meaning of life.  I am solid in my beliefs on the afterlife.  I have married the woman I am meant to be with.  I can now solve the Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and twenty-five seconds.  And though this paragraph may resemble a goodbye letter to the world as I prepare for my life to come to an end like I’m 90 years old, I recognize that in some ways life as I know it will end, as it transforms into a new one.  A more meaningful one.  From “me” to “dad”.

On top of all this, I’m about a half a year away from turning 30, so yeah, I’d say it’s time for things to stop being about me so much and more about someone else.  I have been the protagonist, but soon I will become a full-time director.  All of life has prepared me to this new role.  The cynic could see it as circular reasoning- that you spend your youth learning how to become a responsible adult, and then once you do, you just do it all over again with modified little reruns of yourself running around.

But I would say the cynic is still under the assumption that life is all about him- that life either simply ends when he dies or that hopefully when he dies, he’s been “good enough to get to Heaven” or that at least Hell won’t be that bad, but instead just a big party where the temperature is slightly hotter than desired while Jimmy Buffett plays an eternal concert and the margaritas are never-ending.

If anything, I could see how raising a kid will be a redeeming and cleansing process, helping me to see how little I truly know, helping me to appreciate my family and childhood teachers more, helping me to straighten out my priorities even more, helping me to ultimately give more than I take.  I could see how this baby will ironically make me a better adult.  And how the humility of changing diapers is only a small part of this evolution of my life.

And yes, Baby Jack will probably already know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube before he gets to Kindergarten.

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

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Readers’ Expectations 8: The Biological Chicken, Sweaty Dexter, and Tyler Perry with a Hickey

Sometimes I feel like Dear Abby, except that the questions and comments people type into search engines to get to Scenic Route Snapshots are a bit on the incoherent side.  Here’s the newest batch:

“I haven’t failed; I’ve had 10,000 ideas”- Right.  You’ve had 10,000 bad ideas.  Or another way of looking at it is this: The glass is half full.  Yeah, full of bad ideas!  Zing!  Next…

“biological chicken”- We live in a time where most chickens are no longer biological.  Ever since the Droid Empire took over our planet, most of our food is simply projected figments of our imagination, linked in to the Droid scanners.  Even still, tastes like chicken.

“They’re always sweaty in Dexter”- That’s because the show takes place in Miami.  Similarly, they’re also always sweaty in most reality dating shows on VH1, but that’s for a different reason.

“bacon egg sandwich, grapes, chocolate”- What are you, a ten year-old boy?  Does your mommy know you’re playing on the Internet?  Admittedly, I could see how that could make for mouth-watering breakfast on the right kind of morning.

“beer scripture fellowship”- Jesus and His disciples drank wine.  But that was so like 2,000 years ago.  It’s time for Christian men in Bible studies to switch to beer.  Nothing like reading through Habakkuk with a Heineken in hand, I always say.  Fat Tire and Phillipians, anyone?

“what to do to bad people”- Sarcastic remarks and physical injury only fuel the fire, so I’ve learned from the past.  My new thing is to sincerely pray that they enter into an authentic relationship with Jesus as their Savior.  Then they may end up on my side and fight Satan with their negative vibes.  It’s a win-win.

“how to compliment a classic song”- Man, that’s a tough one.  Just a shot in the dark, but you could try this: “Hey it’s ‘More Than a Feeling’ by Boston…  I love this song!  This song rocks!”  Change the title of the song and the name of the band as needed.

“Can black people get hickeys?”- Good question, but I’ve got a better one: Can black people “get” camping or Monty Python movies?  Even better question: Can white people “get” stomping or Tyler Perry movies?

Nick Shell vs. Ben Wilder: The Facebook Frenemy Wall Battle of Belittlement

Finally, after over two months, the inside joke is turned inside-out.

Within two weeks of me moving to Nashville (September 11, 2005), I was befriended by a guy named Ben Wilder.  He told me about the Green Hills Mall reopening and giving away $50 gift cards for the first 100 people who showed up to the front door.  So we camped out in the parking lot the night before the Grand Re-Opening (sleeping in our cars) until a few hours before the doors opened.  Ben brought with him a TV and DVD player on a stand and showed the movie Hitch to all of us waiting there at the front of the mall.  It’s possible that the off-beat “hey, I just met you” activity defined my future friendship with him.  And that our matched quirkyness makes for a good duo.

October 2005/Green Hills Mall parking lot: Pictured from left- myself, Ben Wilder, and Kyle Benn (though he was not crucial to this story, he did help facilitate my wife and I to start dating)

Ben and I have a lot in common: We are both from the South (he’s from northern FL; I’m from northern AL).  We both graduated high school in the late ‘90’s (1997 for him and 1999 for me).  We are both 5’ 9”.  And we both have a type of journaling website.  Realizing that we are so well-matched, I decided to call him up a few months ago from the Stoney River parking lot in Franklin, TN with a challenge: To see which of us could get more hits on our websites per week.

Turns out, that wasn’t really a fair challenge because I had my website for a few months longer than he did and the snowball effect of readers I had was a major advantage for me.  So I tried a new challenge.  I dared him to incorporate Yanni’s album name Optimystique into one of his post and have it still make sense.  He succeeded (http://benwilder.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/will-you-accept-this-prose/).  Then he challenged me to incorporate Joey Lawrence, Taylor Hicks, Lady Gaga, Will Smith as Hitch, and Tim Hightower into my mine.  I succeeded: America’s Got Talent But That Doesn’t Mean They Have Fans.

The only next logical move was to begin publicly belittling each other through each other’s facebook walls with open-ended, sarcastic and subtle insults about our frenemy’s personal tastes, amount of common sense, knowledge of social cues, and questionable sexuality.  Of course none of these assumptions were true, but the objective was to attempt to get the opponent’s facebook friends to think the comments were real.  Surprisingly, I personally only had a few of my facebook friends question me about it or comment on our comments.

I’m not officially saying that our facebook wall battle is over, but we did recently decide to stop and explain to the general public what has been going on this whole time and recap our progress.  So yes, this may be the obvious “jump the shark” moment that jinxes and therefore ends the campaign.  But that’s a risk that both Ben Wilder and I recognize and are willing to take.  In reverse chronological order, here is the recap of our insults.

The Facebook Frenemy Wall Battle of Belittlement

Nick ShellBen Wilder: I read your Tweet. Twice in the same day? That’s too bad you had to learn the hard way, as an adult. From now on, just remember to do a little research first by asking around and looking for context clues before asking when the baby’s due. Too bad it was your boss at work and also the preacher’s wife that you said that to. Good luck on that.

Ben WilderNick Shell: Nick, I’m sure I’m the last person you want to hear from right now. I didn’t know the cops were going to take action immediately after I called you in as a stalker. Honestly, I thought you and I could’ve worked it out privately, but last night when I caught you staring in my window–again–I had to call the authorities. I hope you understand (given the circumstances) that lunch on Wednesday is off.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: You know, I have to admit, I’ve never heard of a guy selling Mary Kay, but if anyone could pull it off, it’s you. Just think, you do enough Mary Kay parties and you can have that pink Hummer in about 7 years. But I know that’s cool with you anyway since pink is your favorite color- because you constantly write about it on your website. I’m like, “I get it, I get it”, you like pink.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: No, don’t stop writing him letters! Just because he’s going to get the final rose tonight doesn’t mean you have to discontinue writing to Roberto. He’d probably appreciate maintaining your friendship. Just my two cents.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: : That is a pretty good deal- that you bought a year’s worth of tanning bed visits and got a month’s worth of visits for a friend as a bonus. What a generous offer, but I think I’m gonna have to pass on the free month of tanning, this time around.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: I must admit, you’re the first person I’ve ever known to buy a sidecar for your motorcycle. I’m just surprised you bought it so you could ride in it while I drive the bike. And yes, I saw the pictures you tweeted of the t-shirts you had made for us when we go driving tomorrow. The one for me that says “The Boss” and the one for you that says “Santa’s Little Helper”. And you said your t-shirt is Bedazzled?

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: I didn’t know it mattered. Sorry. Next time I’ll walk with you to the men’s room. Usually girls go to the bathroom in groups, sorry.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: Thanks for the tip! I did what you said. Good news: I was able to get your Taylor Swift lunch box autographed for you. Bad news: I sold it on Ebay for profit. Good news: I used some of the money to buy you a plane ticket to “crash” at The Bachelor Pad. And yes, I made sure, both Wes and The Weatherman are going to be there.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Hey sorry I missed your call last night. And no I couldn’t get her autograph for you. Try commenting on her myspace page, I think its myspace.com/taylorswift.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  What can I say? Of course I feel honored that you so highly live by the teachings of my writings- in particular: “How to Wear Pink, If You’re a Guy”. I just think for your own safety, though, it’s not the best idea to go around ripping off the shirts of guys you see wearing pink with khaki pants, declaring, “You’ve been Nicked!”

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Pam Price Williams: You boys are funny, and I’m glad I know you…both of you!

David Stanley: I think we have a new saying…how many people have you “Nicked” today?

Nick Shell: I think we should incorporate “Bunny Bucks” into the system somehow.

David Stanley: for every 2 people you “Nick”, you earn 1 bunny buck.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Nick, I can’t make it to your instructional seminar tonight. Actually I didn’t even know you had a “Crochet Certificate for Instructors.” Makes sense though, because your crocheted scarf patterns last year were the talk of the retirement community. Glad your sharing your skills now. I’ll be at the Hard Rock tonight.

Flood Benefit feat. Creed | Hard Rock Cafe | Rock | Nashville Scene

http://www.nashvillescene.com

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  That’s a good question. I’m not really sure what all it takes to get licensed to drive an ice cream truck. I mean, officially, at least. I know you’ve been practicing the last couple of weeks just for fun, but, yeah, I don’t know. Good question. Good luck with that, though.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Did you win your eBay bid? If you end up winning, congrats! I know much you’ve always wanted Bob Saget’s autograph. Now once you get Uncle Jesse’s you’ll finally have autographs for the whole cast of Full House. Awesome.

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Nick Shell: Hey… Cut, it, out!.. How rude!

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: : I would never have said “it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby” if I would have known you would make it a game to see how much candy you could literally take from babies (mainly in grocery stores and church picnics) then brag about it in your blog. Wait… do you have any Three Musketeers in your stash?

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Nick, I know. You don’t have to explain it in detail, and actually I’d prefer it if you didn’t. But use the cream the doctor gave you. That’ll dry up the rash.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: Well, I know, but just because it’s something you do in the “Internet world and not the real world”, you can still actually be arrested for it. I agree, acting like you were from England to get people to send you money through their hotmail accounts may have been an easy way to make a few easy bucks, but it’s still actually illegal. Don’t worry though, I won’t say anything about it to anyone.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: you’re kidding me right? If you’re telling the truth, I think it’s kinda cool you used to be a choreographer. Do a lot of people know this video is a dance you choreographed? 00:58-1:00 the dancers in the background definitely look like your work.

Arsenio Hall Show – Color Me Badd – All For Love (1992 Live)

http://www.youtube.com

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Nick Shell: Yes, it’s true. I’m that talented. The most impressive part of this: I turned eleven years old in 1992.

Ben Wilder: You were Justin Bieber before Justin Bieber was cool.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: : I’m really interested to learn more about how you ended up teaching yourself to spay and neuter animals while you were in college. You kinda left things vague where you mentioned it under “info” on your facebook profile. Like was it part of an elective course or just a hobby?

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: I am a Droid.

I find Nick Shell’s pocket and hide there.

Every time he hears “droooiiiiiid” he says, “what? where!?”

Because the noise was either me in the front pocket,

or in his underwear, a droid droplet.

Droid.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder: No, not really. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily “wrong” or even illegal to marry your 2nd cousin. You might even be able to keep that part a secret since you both have different last names. But like you said, maybe it’s just a crush.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: That’s hilarious! I thought you would’ve got Slater, but the quiz said you have a Screech personality? Wow. Do you think they’re right?

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  Hey thanks for returning my hair clippers so quickly- you know, the ones you borrowed last week… Though I’m a little confused why they’re all jammed up and smell funny now. That never happened before when I used them to cut my hair…

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Did you ever catch the train? Ohh, did you mean you were buying a training bra? I thought you said you were buying a train ticket. Sorry.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  I’m no specialist, but I would say that eventually your 8 year-old nephew will grow out of his bedwetting stage. But it may help if you… oh, I mean… if he doesn’t drink as much soda pop while playing Dungeons and Dragons after dinner. That’s really the best advice I can give you. Oh… I mean him.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: you WOULD join “Team Jacob”. Come on, Nick. This whole time you had me believing you were siding with Edward.

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Rhonda Walsh Hendricks: I knew it. Traitor.

Ben Wilder: You had us all fooled, didn’t you, Nick? If that’s even your real name.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  So look, I appreciate you dropping off the box of Amway cleaning products at my house. They were indeed successful in getting out the stains in my carpet which you made in your demonstration, though I’m still not quite sure what that brown stuff was in that jar you poured out. Nonetheless, I’m gonna pass on becoming an Amway sales rep with you. Sorry, but good luck on that. Maybe you should use your facebook status update to try and recruit more Amway salespeople. No?

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Hey Nick!! Dude, I can’t believe I found you on Facebook. Last February I randomly saw your name scribbled in a bathroom stall at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama so I wrote a note to myself to try to find you on here. Four months later, I found the square of toilet paper in my jeans pocket and remembered to look for you! Gosh, man, what have you been up to all these years???

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  Well I must say again it was really wonderful having your parents visit church this past Sunday. And no matter what funny looks your mom thinks she may have received, we are very accepting, no matter how a person comes dressed. Though I will say, it may be the first time a woman has ever worn combat boots to our church.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: Nick, I need to send you a private message about something. I’m pretty upset about it. Remember that poem you submitted a few years ago to the “Nashville Has Poets and Knows Its!” competition? Did they ever find out you plagerized? I had no idea till this morning when I read the lyrics to Red, Red Wine (by UB40) and low and behold, the verses are the same as your poem. Not cool, man. You shouldn’t have submitted a poem anyway; it was for elementary-age kids. But I’ll send you a private message about all this.

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Nick Shell: No, they never found out it was “plagerized”. But they did find out it was plagiarized.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  I feel kinda awkward about bringing this up, but my niece is starting to ask me where her DVD is. You know the one- Hannah Montana: The Movie. Are you finished burning it to your collection yet? If not, I might be able to delay, but just for a few more days. Also, I hate to be a nag, but… do the words “Justin Bieber” mean anything to you? Yeah, you’ve had that CD for a while now. I need to return that to the public library. Overdue fees are adding up…

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: well, that’s why she called the book Pride AND Prejudice, because Elizabeth struggled with prejudice and Darcy struggled with pride. So they both had to work through their issues before a relationship could work. It’s funny what you said about Mr. Collins though, how if you were a girl, you would have been a cougar on the hunt for him.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  I kinda feel bad about my initial reaction. The truth is, I’m really happy for you. It’s just that I’ve never known anyone that has done the whole mail order bride thing from Russia. Really though, it’s cool. Have you and Henka set a date for the wedding? P.S. Does she speak any English?

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Britney Grayson: ummm I am a hysterically laughing member of your studio audience! These things crack me up!!!

Jennifer Moore: I agree with Britney! …totally just laughed out loud!!

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: got your message. Can’t make it out to the “Lecture On Skid Marks: On The Road and On Your Undies” today but have fun. I hope there’s no scratch & sniff exhibits there.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  So I read Chris N.’s Twitter about your trip to Orlando last week. You two were college roommates? Why didn’t you say something sooner?! Anyway, that’s cool that you finally got to check out his favorite “guilty pleasure” Mexican restaurant that he mentioned on the show. And… Congrats on getting to try out for the next season of The Bachelorette. I hope they pick you! Maybe you can be “Rated G”?

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: I can’t believe you went through with it! When you said,”I want to be a man, I want to be a man for that woman,” I didn’t know that meant you were getting a tattoo on your lower back! Can’t wait to see it!

Joe Hendricks likes this.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  So listen, I won’t be able to make it to the Captain Planet party you’re hosting tomorrow night at your house. I wish I could see you dressed up in costume. If anyone can pull off a blue mullet, red underwear, and an exposed midriff, it’s definitely you. I’m really impressed how you take “going green” to a whole other level!

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: hey, I have an answer for your question. Turns out IBS medicine is supposed to be taken orally, not rubbing it into your skin. Hopefully this problem clears up for you soon, though.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  So look, the pink My Lil Pony bedspread you ordered is actually only available in purple right now. Is that okay? Or is that too masculine? Anyway, just me me know…

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Joe Hendricks likes this.

Ben Wilder: I’m more upset at Joe than Nick. How could you like this Joe, how could you?

Joe Hendricks: It brought back memories of me beating up My lil pony’s with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But, I know how you feel…. My sister wanted the pink…. purple sucks.

Ben Wilder > Nick Shell: I saw you filling up your “green” car with gas at BP. Not cool, Nick, not cool.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  Oh man, I heard what happened. That must have been so embarrassing. I’m of course referring to when you showed up to host the dinner theatre show “The Merlot Murders” and you learned halfway through from an audience member that you had dog droid all over your pants. Ouch.

Nick Shell > Ben Wilder:  Your face is a Droid.

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Ben Wilder: I’m gonna droid in a bag, light it on fire, and put it by your front door around 7pm. Cool?

Climbing the Family Tree

At some point, it starts to become irrelevant.  Which part of your family tree actually matters?

Fort Payne, AL in 1976- my mom (bottom), her Italian dad and Mexican mother above her

Every family’s got one- the “family tree enthusiast”.  It’s ultimately the person with the most natural motivation to find out where the family came from- not the people who simply say, “I’d love to know more about our heritage…” but instead, the one who actually gets to work on it.  And after I found myself spending hours sometimes researching the origins of last names I had heard of in our family, I soon realized I was appointed by destiny to be the “family tree enthusiast.”

Since last May, my grandmother on my dad’s side has been helping me with the research.  Her last name is Clowers; which last year when I looked it up was an English name and meant “people from the hills”.  But this weekend after sitting down with my grandmother again, I discovered that “Clowers” was changed from “Klauer”, and that was changed from “Clore”, which was changed from “Klaar”, which was not English at all, but instead Dutch.

Chattanooga, TN in 1946- my great-grandparents on my dad's side: Francis Clowers & Madelee Wiseman

The highest I could climb up my family tree was to a Dutch Lutheran named Hans Michael Klaar (born in 1630) who married a Greek woman named Ursula Sybella (born in 1635).  When I Googled the last name “Klaar”, I found more Jewish ties to it than anything else.  It’s possible that further up the family tree the Klaar’s were Dutch Jews, but that would be near impossible to confirm.

Climbing back down the family tree, the next woman being married into the family was another Greek woman, Anna Barbara Maria.  Then Dorothy Kaifer (German), then two more presumed German women (no last names given but I’m assuming they were German since the family had by that point moved to Germany), then surprisingly a Jewish woman named Nancy Ullman (it translates as “rich man”), then Mary Harris (English), then Emmaline Lunsford (English), then Polly Katherine Green (English, Jewish, or Irish), then finally, my great-grandmother Madelee Wiseman (typically a Jewish-German last name which translates “white man”).

same great-grandparents 37 years later

Then my grandmother (maiden name, Clowers) married my grandfather, John David Shell.  All I know so far about his family tree are of Scottish (Scrimsher and Johnston), Cherokee Indian (name unknown), and German (Miller) origin.  But the last name Shell has a potentially interesting origin:  The Jews living in Germany were often given their last names by the Germans, who would insult them with last names translating to things like “stinky” and “ugly”.  Shell used to be “Schell” and literally translates “loud, noisy, and clamorous”- which I would say is an insult.  Plus, by Googling “Schell”, it’s Jewish people that pop up.

So what am I on my dad’s side of the family?  Dutch-Greek-German-Jewish-Cherokee-Scottish-English.  But I’m starting to come to the conclusion; what does really it matter anyway?  At the top of both sides of my dad’s family tree are Dutch, Greek, and German.  In the middle are Jewish and Cherokee.  At the bottom of the trees are English and Scottish.

The Clowers-Wiseman family in 1953- my great-grandparents in the middle, my grandmother on the far right in the black dress

Which is more relevant?  Am I more English and Scottish because those are the most recent?  Am I less Dutch and Greek because those are at the top?  Am I equally all of those things?

And that’s not to mention my mom’s side- she’s half Mexican and half Italian.  But because of the rumors that my great-grandmother Mary Vite was Jewish (there are Jews with the last name Vite), I may not be ¼ Italian after all, but instead 1/8.  Or what if she wasn’t half Jewish, but instead half Greek?

I will always be fascinated by ethnic backgrounds of people, but in a way, I am satisfied with what I know now about my own mysterious ancestors.  Because what is most relevant in a family tree is not found by looking up, but instead by looking down and all around; it’s the people that still influence you, that love you, that care for you, and vice versa.  That’s the part of your family tree that matters.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty dizzy after spending all that time so high up the family tree.  It’s good to be back on the ground, with family members who are just as alive as I am.

Under the family tree: my Italian (and possibly Greek or Jewish?) grandfather Metallo; my mom's dad