Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat

Dad is FatSomehow, the day after I saw "Mr. Universe," Jim Gaffigan's latest stand up show on Netflix, I got the opportunity to get his new book to review.

First, here are the cons:

1. The book didn't arrive signed. I specifically asked for the book to be signed, "To BloggerFather, my best friend," but my instructions were ignored. Typical Liberal Hollywood Elites! Well, looks like I'm going to have to sign the book myself!

And it's a shame, because I think I could have been good friends with him. Maybe not best friends, but at least Facebook friends. I'd comment on his book cover, "Would it kill you to actually smile in the picture? LOL!!!" or maybe I'd tag him next time I'm going to New York: "Find a babysitter, @Jim Gaffigan, 'cause I'm coming over!"

So the book wasn't signed, and most likely, your copy won't arrive signed as well. Just giving you a fair warning.

In the video above, Gaffigan talks about having 4 kids:

You want to know what it's like to have a fourth? Just imagine you're drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.

Well, since the stand up show, Gaffigan somehow found the time to have a fifth child and write a book about being a dad, raising 5 kids in a 2 bedroom Manhattan apartment. It's called Dad is Fat, after the note the proud father received from his learning-to-write kid. It's like when your infant uses a swear word in public: you're embarrassed, but you're also proud because he used it in the correct context.

The book is funny--after all, it was written by a comedian, but it's also more personal than I thought it would be. And I don't know if Gaffigan would agree with me (although why should I care? He doesn't want to be my best friend), but between the short chapters, the pictures in the book, and the personal anecdotes, it's like reading an awesome dad blog, only this one happens to have been written by a very funny guy. The book is basically an honest invitation into the life of a father, who just like most fathers, had no idea what he was in for, but somehow managed to survive his baby's infant years and liked it enough to keep making babies. This book is not just honest and funny, it's also freakin' cute. Between the "What were we thinking?" moments, which are understandable when you think about 7 people living in a two-bedroom apartment, you get a lot of loving stories that might, just might, move Gaffigan away from being "The Hot Pockets guy," to being "The father of five guy."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Solitary Confinement of Depression. #ForMarc

Suicide Prevention LifelineIn 2006, I was fired from my job. I remember the joyful drive home--finally I was free from this job I had hated for 4 years, free to find a job I loved, one that would challenge me and inspire me. This was the best thing that could have ever happened to me!

Which was fine, until I bombed my first job interview. And the second one. And the third. I started collecting unemployment, but we were still struggling. And then, this endless cycle that seemed to go on forever: Send dozens of resumes. Wait by the phone. Get a phone call. Shave. Put on a suit. Shake hands. Talk about my weaknesses. My successes. Make up stuff. Smile! Don't forget to smile! Pretend your life doesn't depend on their decision. Shake hands again. Wait by the phone. Send dozens of resumes...

You think you know it all in your mid-30s. You think you've reached a point where nothing much can surprise you anymore. You think you know yourself, and you think you know the world around you. But nothing prepares you for depression. Nothing prepares you for that first morning you wake up and wish you could disappear, or not exist. And worse than that, nothing prepares you for the following day, when you wake up to realize you didn't just have a bad day yesterday, and that maybe this thing people talk about, this D-word, is not just something that happens to other people.

It lasted 5 months for me, more or less. Five months of feeling like I was a failure. Five months of feeling like I wasn't a real man, whatever that means. Five months of depression.

I didn't tell my wife, because real men don't talk about this stuff, and I wanted desperately to cling on to this self-imposed solitary confinement of despair, because I thought that if I weren't man enough to find a job, at least I could be man enough to keep my depression to myself. Hell, I didn't even tell myself what I was going through. Waking up day after day for months, wishing I could just sleep for 24 hours, and I thought it made perfect sense, and that everything would be fine once my circumstances changed. I wasn't depressed, I thought, just going through a rough patch.

Things changed eventually before I found a job. I started meditating, which made me calm, and I read The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, which, if nothing else, showed me that people have been dealing with the same problems I had been dealing with for thousands of years. And in the end, for me, that was all I needed: to be calm, and to remember I wasn't alone. Thousands of years ago, someone else had been there, pondering the same questions and overcoming the same self-doubts.

Marc Block joined the Dad Bloggers group a little after the Dad 2.0 conference in February. He told us he was excited about the new blog he was starting, Divided Dad, and he invited us to read his first post, Being a divided dad.

. . . And why am I a divided dad and not a divided person, or a divided man? The answer is simple. I am a dad. And when you are a dad, that is what you are. And being a dad is way different than being a father. Being a father is a physical thing. Being a dad is emotional, mental, spiritual and any other “al” you can think of. . . . I am not starting this blog so I can tell other dads how to be a dad. I am here to share the joys, experiences, thoughts, insights and feelings about being a dad.

I read this post Marc wrote in February, and all I could see was excitement about his future as a dad and as a writer. I didn't know Marc when I read his blog. I didn't know Marc when I read his comments and posts in the group. I didn't know Marc even though he was my friend on Facebook. I didn't know he had been suffering from depression, and I didn't know he was going to lose that fight.

Marc took his own life a week ago.

Depressed people often don't talk about depression, and this may be especially true for men. With me, even though I didn't talk to anyone, I still felt "cured" when I realized I wasn't the first person experiencing depression. With me, history may have been all the company I needed. Others may need your company.

Depressed people don't need your sympathy. What they do need is to know they're not the only ones feeling overwhelmed by the weight of it all. Depression shouldn't be a solitary confinement, but a path we travel on with our heads up, as a group.

Some of us in the Dad Bloggers group are writing about depression this week. Here are their posts. I will keep updating this list if more bloggers contribute:

Dad of Divas – The Time Is Now To Ask For Help

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox- Dump Truck Full of Dead Babies

Canadian Dad – The Day the Darkness Crept In

Dads Who Change Diapers – When the World Goes Numb

Dad’s a Lawyer – Words From the Wife

The Daddy Files – Come Back to Me

Dads Round Table – Strategies to Fight Depression

Be a Little Weird -- Recognizing Depression in Men for What It Really Is

5/17/13 Update -- This post has now been republished on The Huffington Post: 
The Solitary Confinement of Depression. #ForMarc

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dads Don't Trust V8

Apparently there's a drink called V8. I've never had it. I've seen V8 ads, where someone hits himself on the head. I don't know why they do that, but I know these ads never made me want to buy a V8. They can hit themselves on their heads as much they want, but when I want a healthy drink, I go for water.

More to the point, I saw this picture on Dad on the Run's Facebook page:

Fathers remain suspicious.

I loved Dad on the Run's comment ("Fathers remain suspicious..."), and normally that's where it would end, but after I went to their site and saw more examples of this "trusted by moms" BS, I decided to email them.

trusted by moms

So I emailed the good people at V8, because even though I would never be caught dead drinking one of these kaka-juices, I want brands to be more inclusive. It's not a question of boycotting an item I would never buy--it's a question of education and of them doing the right thing.

My email was nice. I mentioned the usual "trying to convince brands that targeting a certain group (moms), shouldn't mean completely excluding another (dads)." I also wrote about single dads and about two-dad families who may feel excluded by this "Trusted by Moms" slogan. I got no reply. Maybe if I were a mom they would have bothered, but I'm a dad, which to V8, means I don't exist.

It's great to come to a brand and say, "You will change your ways or suffer the consequences!!!" Unfortunately, that's not going to happen in this case. If you're strict when it comes to your kids' health, to the point of not giving them regular fruit juice, you probably know better than giving them V8. They're much better off drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables, after all. And the best part about it? Water, fruits, and vegetables are trusted by moms and dads!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Wife Said a Really Stupid Thing in the Car

I know... It's Mother's Day... But she said a stupid thing, and she deserves to be called out.

See, we had one of those days. We woke up too early, and got ready to go to Chuck E. Cheese for a 10am birthday party. My kids quickly finished breakfast and went upstairs to get dressed. While I was doing a terrible job at wrapping the present, my daughter told my wife that her foot hurt. My wife called me upstairs, showed me how my girl was limping, and where her foot was swollen. One phone call to the doctor later, we decided to split: I was going to Chuck E. Cheese with the boy, and my wife was going to the hospital to get x-rays with the girl.

At this point, I want to thank everyone who protested against a single-payer system of health insurance. Thank you, freedom-loving wackos, for your insane protests against having the opportunity to have your government pay your hospital bills. Thank you, Tea Party patriots, without whom we wouldn't have had the freedom to pay $250 for this hospital visit that ended with a single Motrin.

But that has nothing to do with the story about the stupid thing my wife said in the car.

So we were done with Chuck E. Cheese just when my wife got the x-ray results (it was nothing. My daughter stopped limping as soon as she got the $250 Motrin), and we all met at a Park & Ride outside Baltimore for a trip to another birthday party in DC. When that party was over, we drove up to Silver Spring for friends' housewarming party.

And I'm saying all that because maybe my wife was just too exhausted by the time we drove home at 9:30pm, to realize that what she was saying was really, really stupid.

"Hey," I said, "At least tomorrow is Mother's Day, and you get some presents!"

"I don't deserve presents," she said. "I'm hardly doing my part as a mom anyway."

My wife travels a lot. I'm talking recognized-by-flight-attendants a lot. She doesn't travel to escape her family and her role as a mom, but because being a mother means having to make sacrifices. Being a modern mom means being stuck between sharing parenting responsibilities with a smile and working to pay the bills. My wife is married to a stay-at-home-dad who gets to spend all day with the kids. She gets off the plane in Seattle, and sees a picture of her son pushing his happy little sister on a swing. She turns her phone on after a flight to Canada, and sees her husband's Facebook update. The kids did this really funny thing... She finally comes back home, and her 3-year-old daughter asks her if she's going to sleep in our house tonight.

And all this time--guilt. All this time of traveling from one side of the country to another and back, endless hours on airplanes, alone with her thoughts, giving everything she has for her family, she is also consumed by the thought that she's not being a real mother.

Which is really stupid, isn't it? How can a woman whose life right now is nothing but sacrifice for her family think she's not being a good mother? She's the mother of adoring kids who learn more from her in one minute than they do with their always-tired dad in a month, and she thinks she doesn't deserve presents? I wish I could give her Mother's Day presents every day. Instead, all I can give her is a daily 10 minutes Facetime call with her kids.

We think of ourselves as what we think other think of us. We learned that confusing idea in a psychology class in high school. If that's true, then let's say we take the best mother in the world, and let's say that this mother, because society's expectations of motherhood tell her bringing home the (veggie) bacon could never be enough, and that she must tuck her kids in every night, and read them a story every night, and teach them to swim and skate and dance and kick and sing and eat good food and be good people--let's say this mother thinks society thinks she's a terrible mother, because she doesn't contribute to the family in accordance with outdated ideas about parenting. That means she now thinks she's a terrible mother, or worse: that she doesn't even deserve to be called a mother.

My poor wife, who goes back to Seattle in 2 days after spending less than a week at home, thinks she doesn't deserve presents. On behalf of the family, let me just say there's no one who deserves anything as much as you deserve our gratitude today. Your kids are the luckiest kids in the world for having you as a mother, and I'm the luckiest guy in the world, for having the opportunity to spend my days with these great kids you made. Happy Mother's Day to the most deserving mother in the world.

Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Disney: All Parents Are Moms

Disney Parks Moms Panel
I was recently sent an email from Alexa, a "Coyne Public Relations" employee working for Disney. The reason for the email was to inform me of two important developments concerning the Disney Parks Moms Panel, which is, according to the press release, "an online forum where guests can get tips and insights for a Disney vacation":

1. "Walt Disney World Moms Panel" was now called "Disney Parks Moms Panel."

2. Two new dads had just joined the panel of moms. There were now five dads on the panel!

I had two follow up questions, so I emailed Alexa.

The first question, which I kept to myself, was, "Why should I care?"

It's pretty amazing how often I get emails that assume I'm so hungry for content, that I'd just happily cut & paste press releases. A panel of moms and dad-moms changed its name. So? And?

But I didn't ask her that question, because her job is not to engage me in meaningful conversation or to connect with me on any level. Her job is to spam me, in the hope that I spam my readers. At least that's what she thinks her job is.

I did email her back with one comment, though:

In a perfect world, a panel of Disney parents wouldn't change its name from "Walt Disney World Moms Panel" to "Disney Parks Moms Panel," but to "Disney Parks Parents Panel." It's great that you're becoming more inclusive, getting more dads into a panel that essentially aims to help moms and dads, but this stuff really bothers me. The word "moms" doesn't equal "parents," and "Dads" is not the same as "secondary caregivers."
It's been a couple of months, and she hasn't bothered replying. Again, she doesn't think her job has anything to do with creating dialog. Disney writes, and bloggers cut & paste--that's the way she sees it.

So let's meet the two new members of the moms panel--Oh, but first:

Disney Moms

First, what's with the "Moms"? If they're moms, call them Moms. If they're moms and dads, call them Parents. Calling them Moms and putting the word in quotation marks is your solution?

And now, the two new members of the moms panel!

Disney Moms

Well, what can I say? Congratulations to Angelo, Chris, Marc, Doug, Derek, Miguel, and all the other moms out there, for the name change. Maybe one day, Disney will respect you enough to consider making another change? And dare I say, maybe one day you'll respect yourselves enough to demand that change?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Ultimate Star Wars Question

Little VaderInspired by DorkDaddy's White Paper on the right age to expose your kids to Star Wars, I decided to try again. The first time I tried, my boy was 3. I thought he wouldn't get the nuances, but love the lightsabers. But we didn't get there, because those red-hooded faceless shorties drove him out from the room (OK, they're called Jawas. I know now). He didn't want anything to do with "The red people," and I couldn't even fast-forward, because what if they come back?! (SPOILER: They don't come back.)

Red People

I tried again when he turned 4. This time, we didn't make it past the opening crawl. As soon as the music started, he knew the red people were not far, so he ran away.

But after I gave DorkDaddy my answer, that I couldn't imagine my son ever being ready for Star Wars, I decided to try again. And this time, maybe because his preschool friends were talking about playing the Star Wars Angry Birds game, or because his 2-year-old sister was in the room, and didn't mind watching it, or because he was simply ready, he stayed in the room the whole time. And a couple of days later, we watched The Empire Strikes Back.

There were snow monsters, and hands being chopped off, and Darth Vader appears in that trippy scene in the cave, and you have that "Luke, this is your destiny" line, which I've been imitating (WITH GRAVITAS) since he was 3, thinking that would make him want to watch it more, and Han Solo gets frozen, and, well, that movie is dark. But he made it through, and I couldn't be prouder.

Of course, his little sister made it through as well, but it's easier to get through the Star Wars movies when all you get is, "Dark Vader's robots fell! And it was funny!"

My girl's first saberAnd now I'm faced with the biggest challenge a father could have. THE conundrum of fatherhood, if you will: what next?

Now, obviously, there's the Machete Order. If you're not familiar with that post, now would be a good time to read it. It's very long, but it's a fun read. And it's very convincing. The short version is that the Machete Order calls for new Star Wars viewers to watch the movies in this order: IV, V, II, III, VI.

Yes, only 5 movies, with very little Jar Jar, with the "I am your father" surprise still intact, and with a double flashback after Luke gets his new hand, all preparing us for The Return of the Jedi extravaganza.

The Machete Order post is updated to say a young woman watched the movies for the first time in the suggested order, and it worked really well. And I believe it. After all, it's true that all the prequels suck, but do they suck that much if you take the Jar Jar out of the equation?

Still, the ultimate question remains: What about kids? Will the Machete order work for kids? I have 5 possible problems:

1. Kids love podracers. That's a scientific fact.

2. Wouldn't kids miss What's-his-Face Darth Maul, since he's now become the face of the prequels-merchandising?

3. That scene with Obi-Wan jumping out of the window is exciting!

4. Would kids be able to get excited over the Return of the Jedi after watching two movies with superior special effects?

5. And worst of all: What if I deprive them of one or more of the prequels, and then they end up watching them during their rebellious teenage years? What if they then come up to me and say, "The Phantom Menace is better than A New Hope!!! And also, I hate you!!!"? That means I've failed them as a father and as a guide to life!!!

It's a tough one. If I take my role as father seriously, shouldn't I protect my kids, by stopping from watching all of the prequels? And what about the new movies they're making now? Should knowing about the upcoming trilogy make a difference in my decision?

This is your destiny


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