Tuesday, June 3, 2014



On Friday, 5/30/14, I found out I had a Stage 4 lung cancer. People in my condition have about a year to live on average, and treatment is now limited to making the next year more bearable. There are other options that may be discussed later, including experimental treatments, and I'm staying optimistic, but frankly, I think I know where I stand.

4 years ago, in the summer of 2010, we were at Bethany Beach, and everyone was having a great time. Our family and some friends were building sand castles, going in and out of the water, and just relaxing in general--everyone except anxious old me. I had hundreds of unread emails and dozens of ideas for blog posts I didn't have time to write, and I was surrounded by too much sand and not enough coffee. I tried to pretend I was having a good time, but people could see I was out of my comfort zone, and worse, that I didn't want to be there.

It was only on the drive back home that I had the epiphany. It was only on the drive back that I realized what I had been missing out on. It was only on the drive back that I realized I had been experiencing the biggest tragedy of human existence: I was having the time of my life, and I didn't even know it.

That was a good day, since once you make that decision, man... You're in Heaven every single second of your life. And it went on and on, and things only got better, because I made a conscious decision one summer day, on the drive home from Bethany Beach, and was able to repeat that decision subconsciously from that moment on. It made the difference between a living Hell, where I was always behind, always unhappy, and always unfulfilled--always a step behind on my writing, my relationship with my wife, with my friends, and with my kids, and a living Heaven, where even if I had wanted more out of life, I also knew I had it all.

I believe in Heaven on Earth, and I believe it's found anywhere you seek it. Here's where I found it:

I found Heaven on long car rides with the kids. I could have felt bad about having to drive my kids back and forth to school for hours every day, but instead, I used those car trips to chat with my kids about their worlds and about mine, to introduce them to music, and to make up music with them, to talk about values as well as about nonsense.

And I found Heaven on the dirty floor of a basketball court. My then 2-year-old daughter used to finish the JCC preschool at 12, so we were stuck for hours, waiting for her brother to finish school before we could head back home. And those days of waiting with my girl will be remembered forever by me and hopefully by her. For 4 hours, we sat around and we shared lunch, and we went to a playroom at the JCC, where she made me plastic sandwiches and tea, and we raced to the basketball court and played basketball, which meant she was leading the parade of two by only stepping on the black line, and I was behind her, dribbling. She made up that game, calling it "Going to the birthday party." Then we would sit down on the floor in front of each other, spread our legs, and roll the ball to each other. Then she wanted to hug, so we hugged on the floor of the basketball court while people played around us.

Even Heaven on Earth includes some caveats. We moved to a new house in March. It's a beautiful house. It's a dream house. It's the house where my kids will grow up, and it breaks my heart. I don't care about myself, I really don't. I've had the most amazing life anyone could ever wish to have, but there's one thing... There's one thing I would give anything for: watching my kids grow up.

I've raised happy kids. Sure, they sometimes whine, but in general, they're happy. They're my masterpiece: two loving, smart, intelligent, funny, happy kids. And I can't let that end. I can't allow them to grow up sad. I can't allow them to grow up with a hole in their hearts in the shape of the dad they barely remember. I want them to be happy. I want to be around to make them happy.

And I want my wife to be happy. She deserves to be happy. I wish I could make her happy right now.

So acceptance, and sadness--well, I believe they can coexist. Sadness is inevitable--I'm only human, and trying too hard to rise above it only hurts more. But I do accept. I accept that life is finite, and I accept that my time will come soon. I accept that my life had been and still is a gift, and I accept the likely possibility that I won't see my kids grow older.

Should I complain, though? Should I cry out to the empty sky and say, "Why me?" Or should I feel that now, even now, especially now, a little confused, a little tired, and a little sad, I'm having the time of my life?

Whatever happens to my body in the next few months is still relatively unknown. Here's what we do know, though:

We know I'm the luckiest sonofabitch who's ever walked this earth, and we know I will be loved until my last moment by people it has been my utmost privilege to know: by a wife I adore and two kids I'm in awe of every single moment.

Just let me make this request of you.

My girl--she's a shy one. You'll see her play by herself sometimes, and you'll be tempted to step back and say, "She plays so nicely by herself!" Go to her. Play with her. She needs you.

My boy--he's so freakin' sensitive. Everything you say will be remembered by him and analyzed for months in that genius head of his. Don't joke with him just to make yourself smile--you'll ruin him. Answer every question he has, or at least direct him to a place with answers. He likes to play and he likes to fool around, but you need to treat him like a grown up. He's smarter than I am, and he's probably smarter than you are.

And my wife--just give her a break. Please, allow her to take a break. She's a type-A personality at work, but at home she's always just wanted to relax and have fun. Help her have fun. She'll want to take all the responsibilities over everything herself--don't let her. Tell her to relax. Tell her to take it easy. Help her enjoy life. And don't label her or limit her in any way. Don't use the W- word with her. She's not that word. She's not an easy simplification. You know who she is? She's the daughter any parent could wish for, and the mother any kid would long to have. Although I've stayed home and took a great share of the credit for raising these amazing kids, nothing could have been done without her. And she'll continue to raise them, and they will continue to grow and be even more amazing teens and adults because of their mother.

And she's the woman of my dreams.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite YouTube Video

But first, the runner up. Because it's all about the innocence of children, and about the temptation of the dark side (and we all know that once you're on that side, it doesn't look that dark, does it?), and about unexpected things that stay with us forever because we happened to press Record.

So... Here it is, my second-favorite video:

But the video below is my favorite. I happened to press Record more than a year ago, while the dishwasher was going, we were all tired, and I was getting ready to do some cleaning and go to bed. But my girl wanted to listen to Adele, and you can't say No to a 2-year-old girl with Space Needle PJs. Believe me, I've tried. So here's my favorite video. Forever.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Capable Dads, Lunch Masterpieces, and the Politics of Kids: Fatherhood Newsletter

This week's roundup includes an amazing response to BuzzFeed, a cool lunchbox project, a cool lunch notes project, and speaking of cool, me, in a sweater, talking about father-son politics on Huffington Post.

Please consider subscribing here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Capable Dads
Buzzfeed is a terrible site. Sure, some of you participate in its quizzes, and sure, sometimes their lists are good enough to warrant wasting 2 minutes of our lives, but really, it's not a place anyone goes to find good writing or truth. It's bathroom reading. So when yet another Dads-are-grown-babies list came up recently (wonderfully titled: 24 Reasons Kids Should Never Be Left Alone With Their Dads), it was hard to find a proper response. On the one hand, it's annoying that a site with so many readers is going to present a list making fun of dads, but on the other hand, it's BuzzFeed, and people expect lowest-common-denominator entertainment from that site, and nothing more. So how does one respond?

Well, fortunately, Zach Rosenberg of 8BitDad has come up with his own list--the most appropriate response to BuzzFeed's idiocracy: 25 Reasons Kids Should Be Left Alone With Their Dads. It's an amazing article, short on words but full of great pictures.

Lunch: Lunch Notes
While my boy is lucky if I send him to school with a note that says, "No nuts" in his lunchbox, some dads put a little bit more effort... Brent from Designer Daddy sends his kid to school every day with a cool and loving note (SuperLunchNotes: April 7 – May 9), which makes me feel inadequate as a dad AND as an artist! Yes!!! But really, it's great. And although I can't draw, I can definitely probably maybe do a better job writing notes...

Lunch: Lunchbox
And as long as I feel inadequate, here's Beau from Lunchbox Dad with his latest lunchbox masterpiece: Woody Woodpecker Lunch, which comes complete with a list of ingredients and instructions. Go for it!

Following a post I had written about the 7 stages of grief you face if your kid ends up a Republican, I was asked to speak on the Huffington Post Live show about politics. Now, OF COURSE my post was tongue-in-cheek (but not really. OK, yes, really. Well, here's the thing: basically, if my kids end up the kind of people who yell at Town-Hall meetings, start walking around with dumb yellow flags, and complain about birth certificates, then that's one thing, but if my kids ask tough, thoughtful questions and end with different answers than the ones I have, of course I'll be proud of them), but it was fun talking about politics with a young Republican and an even younger Democrat (she was 12). If you're interested in watching the segment, it's here: Do Kids Take Their Parents' Political Views?

And if you want just my part of the conversation, because you can't get enough of the sweater, here it is: This Guy Is 'Scared' His Kids May Become Republicans

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Art Museums, Diversity in Children's Books, and Things Girls Should Know: Fatherhood Newsletter

I took a break, but now I'm back. My parents were here, and our rental home is keeping me busy, and there's always something to do in the new house we've recently moved to, and I even played some Wii with the kids. Not to mention that season 7 of Psych is now on Netflix, and I can't be expected to do anything until I'm done with that. But I'm back, and here are this week's-ish stories.

This week's roundup includes a trip to an art museum with the kids, a post about diversity in kids' books, wisdom for girls, a congrats on a wedding, and more.

Please consider subscribing here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Kids in Art Museums

An Art Museum Trick
This is a trick I've used when I was a young man, and now use with my kids who would otherwise get quickly bored by museums without buttons. Try it and let me know if it works! (How to Go to an Art Museum with Young Kids)

Be the Change

When a couple had realized there were not enough books that would appeal to their non-blonde, non-usual-Disney-princess-lookalike girl, they decided to do something about it. A great post about encountering a problem and dealing with it not simply by explaining things to kids, but also by making a difference. (Non-Token Diversity in Storytelling: CAKE Literary to the Rescue! The Revolution Has Begun)

Dads and Daughters

dads and daughters
In a short post, full of honesty and love, Jeff from Out with the Kids lays out 16 things he wants his daughters to know. A great post from a true advocate of girls. (16 Things I Want My Daughters To Know Right Now)


The good people at Life of Dad have partnered with Starbucks again, for another Instagram Video extravaganza. Here, a bunch of bloggers were given the task of showing off their romantic Mother's Day breakfast-making, Starbucks-coffee-preparing sides. Since my wife travels a lot, we did our video without her, which means more coffee for me! Read the post to find out more about the competition, where you can win a $200 Starbucks gift card. (My (Winning) #LatteRomeo #StarbucksVia Video)

And here's the info about the Twitter party:


My friend Brent, who writes at Designer Daddy, has gotten married last week, and I'm honored to have been invited. When MD Governor O'Malley started pushing to legalize gay marriage, the reason he gave was that gay couples' kids deserved to live in a house with two legally married parents just as much as kids of straight couples do, and this pretty unique angle--the one of dignity for children--gave the Maryland referendum voters the push they needed toward the right side of history. It was a beautiful wedding, and I'm happy to report that the sanctity of my own straight marriage is still intact.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to Go to an Art Museum with Young Kids

Nearly 20 years ago, after I just moved to London and before I found a job, I used to walk around a lot and experience life on my own. I walked to Soho and to Hampstead Heath, and I stared at tourists in Leicester Square and at old-time Londoners in places the Tube didn't bother to go. One day, during one of those trips of discovering the city and myself, I ended up at the National Gallery, and immediately felt out-of-place. My high school may have taught me the biographies of some artists and the stories behind famous artworks, but it didn't teach me to appreciate art on my own. I was never told how to approach art, and the idea that certain works of art "spoke" to some people seemed like science-fiction.

Here I was, at one of the greatest art museums in the world, not sure what I was supposed to do next. So I turned to leave. But just before I got out, I decided to look at the museum store, and there I came up with a plan. Recently, I used that same plan to help my young kids get an appreciation not just of art, but of their own, individual tastes.

We were at the Baltimore Museum of Art for a while, and my kids started to get bored: art-shmart, but where were the buttons? I don't have anything against museums with buttons--the Science Center in Baltimore is one of my favorite places in the city--but art museums should be places we look at art and, well, let the art press our buttons instead.

Minutes into our visit, and it looked like we were done. Mr. "Carry me" and Ms. "I'm hungry!" were starting to make their appearances, and I was about to give up, thinking we would try the museum again when they were older, when I suddenly remembered my 20-year-old museum trick.

"Come with me!" I said, and started running down the stairs. The kids followed me to the museum store, and we stopped by the 60-cent postcards. And here's the trick:

Every museum store has a postcard section that features art pieces from the museum. The kids (and maybe their parents) take a long look at all the postcards, and choose their favorites. You buy the postcards, hold on to them, and each person, in turn, starts looking for the art on his postcard.

My daughter was the first to choose a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, and then my son, who took more time to find his own favorite, got a Gauguin. Then we started our quest. And this is the beauty of it all: you don't get spoon-fed information that doesn't interest you and that ends up making you hate art. A kid who picked a Georgia O'Keeffe painting because that painting "spoke" to her from the postcard stand, is now interested in the artist, curious about her other paintings, and eager to find her art in the museum and elsewhere. A kid who picked a Gauguin wants to know more about him. Art history becomes more than a story about a man who cut his ear off.

And it doesn't end there. The kids still get to keep the postcards, and every time they see this $0.60 piece of art in their rooms, they remember the experience of searching for a piece of art that touched them.

I hope people who read this find the opportunity to try this experiment. Next time you're at an art museum with the kids, start at the museum store, and then get your kids to find their treasures and discover their individuality. If you do that, please come back and tell me if it worked!

For the record, my boy had a great time. Unfortunately, I recently told him saying "Cheese" and showing a fake smile when people took pictures was silly, so he's decided he didn't smile in pictures anymore. A bit of a misunderstanding there.

5/19: Hey, this post is now up on Huffington Post: How to Get Kids to Appreciate Art


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