Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On Heart Attacks

I know stress. I grew up around stress. You know that video of Billy Joel's "Pressure"? Where he sits on the chair and white-knuckles the sides? That's how I remember my dad throughout my childhood, pretty much. Here's what I mean, for those not familiar with the video (you can click the image for the YouTube link):

Billy Joel Pressure

He yelled at the TV, yelled at the radio, yelled at customer service people, yelled at the phone after they hung up on him, yelled at his wife, and yelled at us. And that's what I grew up knowing: that the only way to deal with a stressful situation is to grab on to the edge of your seat and yell at something or at someone. Then, a couple of years ago, I got the call about my dad's inevitable heart attack. A quadruple bypass surgery later, and a bunch of little gadgets regulating his heart, he's a changed man, because he knows there's no alternative.

My father's major heart attack was a wake up call for me as well. If I continue to eat junk, if I continue to stress out about every little thing, and if I continue to fight things I have no control over, my heart attack will be just as inevitable as my dad's.

We're moving to a new house soon, and I have big plans. I will get that expensive juicer. I will learn a new recipe every month. I will find more time to run. Maybe swim too. I will start meditating again. And I will try to keep that elusive balance in my life, and remain calm. Always, calm.

Three posts from fellow blogging dads dealt with heart attacks this week:

Doug from Laid Off Dad wrote about the heart attack he had last week.

Then Jeff from Out With the Kids wrote about nearly having a heart attack and about a visit to the ER that has made him decide to make changes in his life.

And finally, Carter from DadScribe wrote about the heart attack he had 5 years ago, and about the changes he's made since then.

These three posts, the before, during, and after heart attack posts, can hopefully go a long way to scare some of us into doing what we need to do to stay healthy, happy, and alive for a little bit longer. Meanwhile, please head over to their blogs and send them some encouragement.

August 6th 2008 - Leave a Little Room In Your Heart

Monday, September 23, 2013

Out of the Darkness Community Walk: A Fundraiser

Marc Block
A few months ago, following the suicide of a fellow blogging dad, Marc Block, I wrote about my experience with depression. In the post, which was later republished on Huffington Post, I linked to more writing about depression from other dads in our Dad Bloggers group, in an attempt to "come out" and hopefully reach out to other depressed men/dads with the message that they were not alone.

The person who initially reached out to one of our group members with the news was Marc's friend, Hilary Ratner, who is now fundraising on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On October 26th, she will participate in the foundation's Los Angeles Out of the Darkness Community Walk, and her fundraising goal is modest and very much achievable.

Please read her words, which I cut and pasted below, and consider making a donation.

In memory of my friend and coworker Marc, I will be joining with thousands of people nationwide this fall to walk in AFSP's Los Angeles Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I would appreciate any support that you give me for this worthwhile cause.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is at the forefront of research, education and prevention initiatives designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. With more than 38,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, the importance of AFSP's mission has never been greater, nor our work more urgent.

I hope you will consider supporting my participation in this event. Any contribution will help the work of AFSP, and all donations are 100% tax deductible.

And please, if you are in a crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Charles Baker (aka Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad) Interview

Charles Baker Skinny Pete Interview
My kids want me to put music in the car. It doesn't have to be kids' music, but it still has to be music. But every once in a while, I get the chance to be in the car by myself, and then it's podcast time. I've heard some great podcasts this year, including The Nerdist interview with Mark Hamill, where Hamill mostly talks about his voiceover work, but is happy to talk about Star Wars as well. It's an amazing interview for any Star Wars fan, especially for those who were worried that Hamill has been sitting at home, waiting for cameo work for the last 30 years.

And speaking of down-to-earth actors, I recently listened to the interview of Charles Baker--Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad--on The Life of Dad podcast. I usually give podcasts 5-10 minutes to get my attention, because life's too short and because I'm weeks behind on my podcasts, but this interview was great from the start.

Baker became a dad around the time he started his role on Breaking Bad, and being on the road a lot, he's been using a lot of Skype and FaceTime in the 5 years since then. In the interview, Baker talks a lot about being a dad and about trying to be better as a role model, and also about Breaking Bad, and about his work for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) on behalf of kids. It's a great interview for any Breaking Bad fan, but also for anyone interested in hearing just another dad struggling with the challenges of being a father on the road. You can listen to the interview here, and then hopefully subscribe to The Life of Dad podcast, and you can also read the transcript of the interview on the Life of Dad site.

And if you have a chance, I talked to Ryan and Art from the Life of Dad site on their After Show podcast. We talked about parenting, about blogging, and about the Dad Bloggers group. Listen to the podcast here!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Which I'm a Writing Prompt

Write Nonfiction in November

I'm a sucker for Q&As, and when I found my name alongside 4 other dad bloggers, all serving as writing prompts, I couldn't help myself. Here are the questions I was asked by Amanda at the Write Nonfiction in November site. There are answers too:

(1) How fascinating that you wanted to feature other dad bloggers before featuring yourself. Why did you adopt such an unselfish, caring attitude towards other dads? What inspired you to create this community?

I had a very personal blog before my current one, and I just felt drained from writing about myself. I love talking about myself, don't get me wrong (I am writing this post, after all), but I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore. I still wanted to write about fatherhood, though, so writing about other dads, and including even just a small paragraph about the way their experiences mirrored my own was enough. At least at the beginning. I still write personal posts and some too-opinionated posts, but I feel like featuring others will always be at the heart of my blog.

(2) Can you describe your participation in the Good Men Project? Why is that website important? Why is it a good idea to write for that blog?

I think it's important to have a men's site that doesn't try to limit fatherhood to a bunch of stereotypes, but to extend the definition of masculinity. There are a lot of sites that talk to and about men and have nothing to do with me. Men who don't fit the norm (and most men, I believe fall outside the stereotypical norm) shouldn't feel like they're the problem. I try to expand the definition of masculinity on my blog and in my own life as well, so reading and writing for The Good Men Project makes a lot of sense to me.

(3) What inspired you to create a Facebook group just for dads? What are the benefits of joining? Have you learned unique things through that group?

The group is just for blogging dads, first of all (you can read more about the group here). There are a few groups for stay-at-home-dads, and a few for other dad-related issues, but there was no group for blogging dads to talk about fatherhood and to read and promote each other's blogs. There are very few blogging dads compared to blogging moms, and this group goes a long way in the direction of allowing the voices of fatherhood to be heard alongside the voices of motherhood. The more people read about the experience of dads, the sooner the concept of involved fatherhood will become the norm.

I learned a lot from the group, and I hope others have as well. Each blogger has a unique perspective about fatherhood and about his approach to blogging, and as long as we approach others with an open mind, the silliest joke thread in the group can become a lesson in writing, promoting, and parenting.

(4) Congratulations for being invited to a screening of a Disney movie! How often do you get invitations to do cool things? Do you think your reputation as a dad blogger is well known?

Ha, I don't know. My name got on a list, and now I get emails, and that's all I know. Maybe I would have been invited to more events if I had done a better job of looking at my emails less than two weeks after I get them. I've been getting the emails about special press screenings for a while, but only now had a chance to go with my kids. It was a great experience, even though the people sitting next to us in the press section were less fun than those in the regular seats. I've recently spent 3 days in Vegas, on a trip sponsored by Toyota. I wrote about it here. I'd love to go on more adventures, I'll be honest. I'm not sure why I haven't been invited to do a cameo on the new Star Wars trilogy yet.

(5) You equate the need for kids to learn another language with exposing the kids to other cultures. Do you feel lucky to have learned another language in order to be able to pass it down to your children? What is your opinion of people who know another language and choose to not teach their children?

My mom is French, and she tried to teach me French for a long time. But I was stubborn, and it never really got anywhere. I don't judge parents who can speak another language and choose not to teach it to their kids, because I know from my own experience that it's impossible to teach kids something they don't want to learn. I'm lucky that my boy is so naturally curious and open to learning. It's different with my younger girl, though. She might grow up understanding, but not speaking Hebrew, and there's probably nothing I can do about that.

(6) Can you describe your participation in the Dad 2.0 summit? Were you a panelist or just a participant? What is some of the best advice you learned during this summit?

I was just a participant. It was my first time there, and I had a great time meeting people I felt like I had known for a long time. I don't know about advice, but the most important thing I got from Dad 2.0 was to try harder. It's easy for me to fill up a blog with words, but by being around so many good writers who talked about the same things I did, I realized I had been neglecting the writing part of blogging. It's easy to talk about topical issues that get the Google gods to notice you, but if you let your writing deteriorate, your blog is useless.

(7) Your blog touches upon many personal things, including depression, that are a part of being a father. How do you feel about revealing such personal information on the Internet? Has it helped you to get through things?

Like I said, I don't do "personal" very often. The depression post came from a suggestion someone made in our dad bloggers group, and I was one of many people who followed through on the suggestion. Male depression seems like a taboo--something that "real men" don't have, or at least don't talk about, and we had hoped that by "coming out" with our stories, we could convince other men that there was nothing wrong with the way they felt, and that masculinity didn't necessarily mean overcoming emotions alone.

There's always a level of personal ego involved even in the less-personal posts, but even with my most personal posts, I often try to make my stories a reflection of others' experiences.

(8) You manage to break society’s definition of fatherhood and motherhood swiftly into smithereens, offering honest reflections of what it means to be a parent. Do you think society is ready to pay attention to your avant-garde thoughts?

Ha, I'm not sure what that means. I definitely don't parent (or write about parenting) the way I do because I want to change anything, but because that's what comes naturally to me. I feel like the concept of involved fatherhood in general, and of stay-at-home dads in particular, threatens some people. I'm not going to get through to them. I hope I get through to others, though.

(9) How political are you? How do your political viewpoints affect your parenting? Do you teach your children about politics in an unbiased way?

I'm very political, but I try to make sure my kids grow up questioning everything around them, including my own opinions. I hope my kids grow up with an open mind and zero judgement. My kids know I'm an atheist, but they've never heard any anti-religion word from me. The "Some people believe that..." seems to work well with religion, as well as with any political issue they may be curious about. There were a lot of pro- and anti-gay-marriage signs in Baltimore last year, before the referendum, and I think I did a good job with the "Some people believe" line. Sure, I'll be disappointed if my kids don't grow up with the exact same opinions I have about every single issue, but that's something that's probably true for every parent.

(10) You have written a lot of reviews about iPhone apps, movies, and books. Do you ever get paid to write reviews? If no, what can you do to get paid?

Well, I get a lot of emails about reviews since I'm on that super-secret list PR companies get, and I delete most emails, since they have nothing to do with me. But if see an email about something that interests me, I'll review it. The payment is usually a review copy (meaning, no payment, really). There is little money to be made from blogging, and it mostly comes from sponsored posts. Once you get paid to review stuff, you pretty much lose all credibility, though, so I don't do that, and I don't think anyone else does.

Thanks for reading and for asking these questions!


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