Transforming My Son Into Steven Spielberg

For many years I have done my dad-ly duties by documenting the various family events such as birthdays, vacations, and sports games.  I have more digital pictures than I care to count, and I will admit that I am quite fond of making music videos of the family events and posting them on Youtube (www.youtube.com/user/stevengholt).

YouTubeI have even helped my kids a few times with their school video projects, and if you are a parent then you know what that means… you end up doing more of the project than your kid.  It shouldn’t be that way, of course, but we want our kids to make a good grade, right?  And if we are honest about it, all the other parents in town are doing their kids’ projects, so it really is a competition between parents and I am certainly not going to let another dad show me up. Doing video can be difficult for many people, so those video projects in the past almost required that I do most of the work anyway. But that changed recently, and I must admit, I am quite the proud papa.

Things started to change when my son, Harrison, got his iPod Touch with a camera.  He started making goofy videos at home and uploading them to Facebook.  They started out pretty silly, with my kids just goofing around.  But then they started to have a point.  They started scripting them, and they weren’t so goofy.  Well, they were still goofy, but it was organized goof which is entirely different.

So when Harrison told me last week that he needed to make another video project for school, I was pretty pumped.  I was excited to see just how much he would get into this.  So when we sat down to talk about it, I told him that all great directors, like Steven Spielberg, did certain things when planning their films.  He wanted to know what.  So I told him that you have to have a screenplay to start with.  You need to have good actors.  And you definitely have to have a shot list.  Spielberg always has a shot list.

So we sat at the kitchen table and wrote up our screenplay (Ha), which no doubt Spielberg would never approve of, and wrote down our shot list.  We enlisted one of his brothers to join the production and bribed one of the dogs with treats to be the star of the show.  We planned out our jokes, the punch lines, the scene locations around the house, the props we would need, and we got busy.

My son was a real pro.  He came up with the best punch lines, he evaluated the best lighting locations, and he gave me some great bloopers to work with.  He transformed into Spielberg right before my very eyes.  Well… sortof.  He did great, and we made some great memories in the process.

To see our final result, “How To Wash A Dog”, go here.  And post a comment if you like it!

On The Road… Again

Last week 3/5ths of the Cast of Dads had the chance to get together for a road trip from Boston to NY thanks to the the teams at Ford and Sony who tried to be the first brands to get all of us together.  Unfortunately, crazy dad schedules (that is – crazy schedules, not crazy dads… well…) prevented Max and Michael from joining us, but Brad, C.C. and I (and Danny from the DadLabs team) were supplied with a 2011 Ford Explorer to drive from Beantown to the Big Apple for the New York International Auto Show.

2011 Ford Explorer

The Explorer was loaded with so much cool technology it was like driving a four wheeled gadget, and we were loaded with our own technology to ensure we created lots of content to share with you along the way.  Once we arrived in New York we were treated to a party sponsored by Ford and Sony for the unveiling of the new FORD TAURUS, and featuring an amazing performance by the band TRAIN.  You can also check out some C.C.’s photos as well as some pictures I took at the party and the Auto Show as well.  I will be sharing a lot more content from the Cast of Dads road trip.

Along the way we reminisced about our own family road trips and shared some stories and memories in this short video.  Stay tuned for more… and Enjoy!

Cast of Dads is a group of podcasting and blogging dads who gather to gab about fatherhood. The cast of dads includes C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, who collectively represent 13 kids from the youngest of babies to full grown adults. Each of them brings a unique perspective to being a father.

Disclosure: Ford & Sony covered travel expenses and gave us press access to the auto show. We were provided with a Ford vehicle to drive from Boston to New York. All thoughts, words and anything else we say is totally our own opinions.

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Tips For Working From Home With Kids

Man working on laptop with kid in lap

Photo courtesy of medigerati on Flickr

I don’t know how many of you work from home but the challenges that come with it are monumental, especially when you have a 3-year old running around. Shortly after my son was born, I decided to return to college to pursue a long uncompleted bachelor’s degree and my wife and I made a decision that I would stay home with my son to save money on day care. So basically I have been a stay-at-home dad and full-time student for the last 25 months and as my son has gotten older I have learned a lot about working from home with kids present.  As I near graduation I’m also trying to develop a business from home so it looks like this will continue until my son starts school and I wanted to share what I’ve learned to see if it can help others.

You need to work when they sleep

When he was little this was easier but as he got older the nap periods got shorter and my productivity suffered. It helps if you set a schedule early so they know when nap time is and you know when you will be able to knock out some work. You can also get more work in at night after the kids have gone to bed.

Get out of the house, often!

A couple of days a week I work from a coffee shop after my wife gets home from work. I’m writing this now from one of those coffee shops. If you can afford it, hire a babysitter for a few hours a week during the day to get some free time. Sometimes a local church may have a Mom’s Day Out program that offer’s inexpensive childcare during the middle of the day. I found one near my house that is $20/day for about 3 hours of childcare from 11-2.

Find other people to interact with

When you work in an office you get to bounce ideas off other people. You learn from interacting with your peers and you lose that when you work from home.

The last point is a big one for me. I’m not a very social person and don’t work well in an office environment. I don’t do office politics well and I tend to be more interested in working for me than a boss or a company, but I digress. I need a group of like-minded people that I can learn from and bounce ideas off of. Social networks are great for this but they can be huge time waster, too. How many times have you gotten on Twitter or Facebook and 2 or 3 hours went by? I found something better. Forums!

Now I can see you saying, “Chris, forums are so Web 1.0!”. Yes they are, but they were the original wiki. The knowledge contained in a forum centered around a specific niche or industry is astounding. You can drop in when you want and search all the discussion post for an area you are stuck on and you wil likely find an answer. If you can’t find the answer, you can post a question to the forum and get input from all the members. This allows you to learn from other people and get that back and forth of bouncing ideas off each other that is so beneficial.

Another problem area is motivation

When you work from home you need to be self-motivated. It’s real easy to lay on the couch and take a nap or turn on a good action movie on Netflix when the kid is sleeping. No one is going to make you write that blog post or browse the forum looking for info on how to draft up a contract. I get around this with personal development products.

I’m a really big fan of personal development. I watched The Secret, read a few Tony Robbins books, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and they have really helped me figure out why I do certain things. Once I knew why, I could plan for that and work on changing that behavior.

I recently started an internship for a company that is doing a Groupon-style site that sells personal development products. I only bring it up because this week our product is Chris Brogan‘s (Dad-O-Matic’s founder) Kitchen Table Companies(KTC). This site is the forum for people like myself, people building a business from home. Whether you are working from a home office or the kitchen table while the kids are sleeping you can now get advice from other’s doing the same.

KTC is place where you can go to get that motivation and the forums are a place to interact with other work-at-home moguls like yourself. Normally Kitchen Table Companies is $47/month but right now at DailySuccessDeals.com we are offering the first month for $9.97. I’m not going to go into a sales pitch you can go check out the site yourself and see the testimonials from current members. I think for the price of 2 cups of Starbucks you get a chance to try it out and see if you get value from tapping the knowledge of others who have gone before you.

(Disclosure: I am an unpaid intern for DailySuccessDeals.com and Dad-O-Matic is not being compensated in any way for running this post.)

Green Lantern Colassal Cannon Review

Some of my favorite childhood memories surround the fantasy of being a super hero.  Spinning webs from your wrist as Spiderman, flying and x-ray vision of Superman.  So I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a few toys from Mattel connected to June’s release Green Lantern.

Photo: Jeff O'Brien

My daughter, the Harry Potter-loving, dress-up princess, though, didn’t want much to do with it though.  So I enlisted the help of a pair of twin 5th grade boys, two houses down from ours, to be the official product testers.

When I walked into my neighbor’s house and saw the green discs strewn about the living room floor, it was clear that the project had gotten off to a solid start.

The Colossal Cannon ($29.99 at Toys R Us online), as I was told, was a bit more age appropriate for these 11-year-olds and “awesome.  REALLY AWESOME!”  You wear the cannon on your hand/wrist, grip a trigger which then fires up to 10 round, plastic green discs with the appropriate lights and sounds (never at someone’s face, I reminded them in front of their parents).

The Kilowog action figure ($8.99 at Toys R Us online, with accompanying Green Lantern ring) got a lukewarm review. “The ring was really cool but it took us a while to figure out how to put the piece on the arm of the action figure.  But we kinda got bored with that and just went back to playing with the gun.”

“We REALLY liked the gun,” they said in near unison.  “It was fun to make up games with our friends and pretend like we were in a comic book. We loved how far the pieces shoot.  And when you stick your hand in it, it feels like it’s a real part of your arm, not like other guns where you just pull the trigger.”

Their only criticism of the cannon: “Sometimes it jams and the shooting pieces are small and easy to lose, like under the couch.”

In brightest day,
In blackest night,
No Evil shall escape my sight,
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power,
Green Lantern’s Light!

Disclosure: This review is a sponsored post.  Mattel provided bothGreen Lantern toys to facilitate this review and a promotional item to compensate me for the time to participate.

 

 

Signs, Signs Everywhere is Signs

Cross posted from Dad the Single Guy:

Can you read them all?There are lots of signs out there-some that are really obvious, like the ones on the road when you are driving. Some that are designed to make you take an action, like a sale sign in a store, and some that are societal-a parent non-verbally communicating with their children, unspoken communication between siblings or the underpinnings of a conversation; at least partially implied.

And so it goes.

Over the extended spring break the girls have had from school, I’ve done a lot of driving-and read lots of signs on highways and roads. Those are pretty easy. I’ve also started doing some camp shopping, and although it can be confusing the sale signs in stores are pretty evident and can be read pretty easily.

Last night I went out to dinner with my kids, and was not overly happy with their behavior at the table. After a warning, came the look. You know it. You use it. Your parents used it on you. The look. A non-spoken sign, but sign none the less.

Then comes the much tougher ones-the ones that are implied or at least partially implied through conversation or actions. The ones that carry a lot of meaning to the conveyor, but if missed can create an awkward moment for all.

I was at the gym this morning, just doing my thing. Generally at the gym I am not a talker, it’s not a social event for me. That said, there are a couple of people I know at the gym-most because of the years I’ve been going and others are from the community and we cross paths at the gym. This morning I was talking to a friend in the former category-someone who I crossed paths with two gyms ago and has moved gyms over the years on about the same schedule as I do.

(BTW, there is a whole post about changing gyms-its not a very easy thing to do)

As I was talking with John, a woman I recognize from the gym I work out in now came up to us and interjected herself into the conversation. After just a few minutes of idol chit-chat with no real meaning, I kind of peeled away, but the ear-buds back in and got back at it. Five minutes later I looked over and John was still engaged.

Twenty minutes later, now on the treadmill, John got onto the open one next to me and told me the woman I turned away from wants to go out. Now, I’ve seen her just about every day for the last six months, we’ve waved and nodded-I think I’ve even had a quick conversation on an elliptical machine (boxed in with nowhere to run). But I’ve never gotten that vibe.

So now I have to think about what tomorrow will be like. I’ll go for avoidance-just to keep it simple. But now I know. Have to read ALL the signs.

 

My CostCo Love Affair…and My New Traeger Smoker

I love CostCo.  I love getting a deal and I love that their deals cover everything from electronics to apparel, from books to food to a pack of batteries so large I never think we’ll go through them all (we always do).

I love their return policy as well…in short, it’s satisfaction guaranteed.  Always (ok, on electronics, games, cameras, etc. you have only 90 days to decide…but for everything else, no matter the reason at any time, they’ll take it back).

And I think that’s why I have a new Traeger Smoker.  I bought it thinking, “Ok, if I don’t use it or really love it, I’ll just bring it back.”  But in the back of my mind I knew the real truth: who ISN’T going to love or use a smoker that is as easy to use as this?

It was a “special” something only stocked and sold during the weekend visit I had just made (which then only FURTHER drove me to buy it and “try” it…that limited time offer thing gets me at CostCo every time!)

I wound up taking home the “mid-size” option, the Lil Tex Elite, large enough to smoke a brisket and a full slab plus of ribs.  Which is exactly what I threw on the Sunday after I bought it.

It’s far easier to use than my old smoker — and far easier to clean up.  I don’t have a hot mess of a drip pan filled with water and all the drippings from the meat I’m smoking.  The wood that fuels the smoker is even easier: no soaking, no adding more wood hours into the process.  The Traeger smokers use wood pellets (available in more than a dozen varieties, from mesquite to hickory, apple to pecan).  The pellets sit in a hopper and fall onto an ignition rod with the help of a slow-turning auger.  The higher you turn the heat, the more frequent the auger turns…from dropping pellets onto the rod once every few minutes to nearly constantly.  A convection fan below the heating element then circulates the smoke around the grill.  At the lowest setting, the meat cooks around 180-190 degrees while on high, it hovers near 450.

The result is pure bliss…made only better by the fact that CostCo sells pork baby back ribs by the three pack.  It’s my new summer project!

 

Water Changes Everything

Here’s something new from Charity Water, a charity Dad-O-Matic endorses and supports. It’s called “Water Changes Everything” and it clearly shows the tremendous impact that clean water has on families all over the world. We all know the importance of clean water but too many of us don’t fully realize how tough it is for people to get even a drop of it every day. This is a well done animated short that brings the message home in a big way. We hope everyone thinks about helping out as they gather together this Easter Sunday. Think of the contributions we can make to the world with the simple gift of water.

Please Donate here


 

Here’s the founder/CEO Scott Harrison on TechCrunch TV discussing this new animation and how it came about. One of the most astonishing statistics Scott shares is the fact that US citizens consume 150 gallons of clean water every day while a billion people in the world only consume 5 gallons per day.

Free Apps for Your Next Trip to Disney World


I took the family to Disney World for spring break 2011 and it was even better than expected. Maybe it was because the kids were a little older this time (ages 12, 8 & 5) or maybe it was merely experience paying off, but all I know is that we had the times of our lives. I also think all of the free iPhone apps that we used made things so much easier this time and saved us a great deal of time and headaches. Here’s a round-up of the best free apps that I used during this trip. I used a few way more than others, but really you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Quick tip: Besides using MouseSavers.com, you should also try to call the Disney Dining reservations hotline (1-407-WDWDINE) every day for helpful suggestions for places to dine. They are especially helpful for scheduling meals with Disney characters for autographs and photo ops with the children. We got extremely fortunate one morning when we learned that someone had cancelled their meeting with Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom which requires reservations at least six months in advanced! It became the highpoint of our trip as our 5 year-old Rachel got to meet Cinderella and all of the princesses at breakfast (we did too!). Here she is on her Belle costume and in the elevator on her way there.

 

Free Disney World Apps
What 2 Ride
This was my most used app. It quickly displays all of the things you can do and ride for each park.

Disney Ride Counter
This is a fun app because it keeps track of which rides you’ve all ridden and how many times. Good way not to miss any must-rides.

Point Inside is a unique map app because it shows the layout of interiors such as malls and airports

Disney Checklist

Radio Disney

Downtown Disney Maps

Disney World Maps (VersaEdge)

Disney World Park Hours

Disney wait times, Dining & Maps  (Undercover tourist)

Disney Wait Times (VersaEdge)

Disney Movies

Disney Lines

WDW Radio

 

Free Games
These free Disney themed games will come in handy if you install them on an iPad. It can keep the kiddies quiet and occupied during long drives.

Disney

Epic Mickey

Tangled Game

Disney Fairies Fly Lite

Toy Story 3 game

Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Rose

Alice in Wonderland

Mouse Trivia – Disney Edition

Tron

Have a safe drive and enjoy every moment you spend at Disney World, it truly is a magical place.

How Old Is Justin Bieber? The Cast of Dads Want To Know

This week the Cast of Dads are feeling inspired by the spring in the air and the spring in their steps, but even better weather cannot keep us focused on just one topic.  Where else can you find five clueless dads debating everything from Justin Bieber vs. Rebecca Black to MacGuyver vs. MacGruber in a single half hour show?… now THAT’S entertainment!

We are also excited about an upcoming road trip this week, sponsored by our friends at Sony and Ford, that will bring the Cast of Dads together for a private concert and an inside look at the NY Auto Show.  Follow me on Twitter to learn more about this event and how you might be able to participate…

You can CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO CAST OF DADS Episode 41.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

If you have been enjoying the Cast of Dads podcast, please tell your friends about the show and have them subscribe to either our direct feed orvia iTunes.  Also, please leave us a review in iTunes!

Cast of Dads is a group of podcasting and blogging dads who gather to gab about fatherhood. The cast of dads includes C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, who collectively represent 13 kids from the youngest of babies to full grown adults. Each of them brings a unique perspective to being a father.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.


(My) Tween(s) and Social Networking

Cross posted from my social media blog-its a relevant discussion for this audience too.

Which ones are your tweens on?As the parent of one tween (10.5 who will be 11 in two months) and an 8.5 who wants to do what her big sister does – social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., are sources of big concern for me -and I know a lot about them.  Which seems to put me well ahead of my peers who are parents confronting these issues.

To fully understand the issue I (and other parents of tweens today) face, you need to understand the landscape.  Chances are if  you are reading this blog, you do, but for the sake of clarity:

At school, softball, camp-pretty much any place more than three kids gather, eventually the conversation turns to Facebook, texting, YouTube and any one of a myriad of social games.  Now, like many parents I am guilty of enabling this conversation by outfitting my kids with the iPod Touch, which opens up the magic of the app store to them.  I am aware of at least three apps that my girls and their friends use regularly that are not compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  And these are the ones I worry most about.

Through the age of 13 (which is why its the magic number for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc) COPPA provides some rigorous rules about how kids under 13 are treated on websites.  Speaking as someone who has had to consider COPPA compliance – it’s not treated lightly in large companies.  I can see in some start-up environments though there being more of a “let’s wait to see if someone complains” attitude.

Basically, COPPA provides strong content guidelines and enforcement as well as protections against the collection of PID (personal identification). Enforcement of COPPA falls on the Federal Trade Commission.

So back to my parenting conundrum.  Both of my kids (more so 10.5) have friends who are on Facebook, regularly post videos to YouTube and are on social gaming sites like Second Life etc.  My kids, not so much.  They have email, I let them on Opionaided (it is COPPA compliant) and they can play social games targeted at tweens that are COPPA compliant.

But the battle continues. Then comes the part that confuses me, although I know it should not.  Since becoming a single parent, I am more apt (perhaps more open) to talking with other parents at school events, temple, parties etc. – and they seem unaware of the kind of information their children are sharing on social networks.

 

Making Today A Better Day Than Yesterday

This is cross-posted from Dad The Single Guy because I think the audience here will have a different take on this one:

While it sounds simple, for the last 18 months or so I’ve tried to focus on getting day-to-day for me and the girls, and along the way doing the best I can to make today better than yesterday.  And I’ve tried to help the girls understand this philosophy and implement it in their day-to-day as well.  Along the way there have been successes and failures.  By my rough count-we come out ahead though; more wins than losses.

I paid my doctor a visit yesterday-it has been a while, and as I was giving the nurse the updates on my history, I told her I was now widowed and we discussed that briefly.  A little later in the discourse came the discussion of , “What meds do you take?”

I am not one to take meds needlessly.  In fact, even when the girls are sick, if it’s just a cold I really don’t medicate them, and almost never give them antibiotics.  It’s a personal choice.  So, when she asked me what meds I was on, I answered Zyrtec for my allergies.  Her response was, “Are you sure?”

I was pretty sure, so I asked her if she had anything good I could try.  She then told me she was expecting me to say some course of antidepressants.  And I was taken aback by that.  I’ve never even thought about needing that.  It’s just never been a part of my thought process.  Mind you, I am in weekly therapy, and the girls between school and private go twice a week-and yet I just have never even thought about it.

Which made me ask if she thought I needed it.  Her response was, “Men are good at hiding their emotions anyway.”  I am barely in my doctor’s office once a year, so there is no real way the nurse there would know my baseline, so I let the whole conversation slide-but it does make me think…

Am I too focused on the moment?  Is it time to start thinking about tomorrow and next week and pull the focus away from what is happening now?

There is a good case to be built for that-for too long my focus has been on making sure today is a good day that we are missing out on what is ahead; not taking advantage of all there is.

But that said, there is still so much complexity in the here and now that I don’t think in total we would be doing as well without focusing on it.

So onward we go, perhaps over simplified-but when all is said and one, today will be better than yesterday.

 

Is YouTube raising my kids?

It looked really cool. My 11 year old son had taken a piece of paper on the counter and folded it into a boat, although I didn’t know at that moment that he was the one who did it. At first I thought that he might have found it somewhere, but I asked him where he got it and he said he made it. You made it? Really? I had never seen my son do origami, so I was a bit perplexed. I mean, I hadn’t paid for origami lessons. He then proceeded to make other paper things, and I was still sitting in wonderment about what had happened.

YouTubeHow did you learn this son? ‘Youtube’ he says. Yep, Youtube taught my son the art of oragami. A few days later I came upon my daughter practicing a song on her guitar by watching… yep, you guessed it, a Youtube video. After all, she could pause the video and watch it over and over again till she got it. Now, tell me again why I am paying for guitar lessons??

So obviously this caused my mind to start wondering. What exactly are my kids learning on Youtube? Do I need to be concerned? Should I feel jealous that my kids weren’t coming to me to learn those things that fathers are supposed to teach their kids? Was Youtube replacing me? Well, Youtube isn’t going to give them any money for the movies, so I feel pretty secure that I’m not going anywhere. At least, I think so.

I must admit I have used Youtube countless times to learn something I needed to know. It just never occurred to me that my kids would be doing the same thing. And honestly, I am starting to get a new perspective on this. Now that I think about it, I can use Youtube to my advantage. Dad, can you show me how to shave? Youtube, son. Hey dad, how do you tie this knot? Youtube, son. I am starting to like this. Now, if I can just find a video on how to take the garbage out so my oldest son can visualize it.

A Boy And His Dog… And A Pet Peeve About Digital Photography

A Boy And His Dog...

In this age of digital images, how many of you still have boxes of family photos hiding in the darkest corners of your least visited closets?  With the near ubiquity of digital photography, for many of us, our family memories have come out of the closet and have moved onto hard drives and online services like Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly and others.  The shoe-box is back to storing shoes (and perhaps a bunch of those receipts you think you will need, save forever, and never touch again…Yeah, I have a bunch of those boxes too…)

Exposed!

Digital photography has changed the way we take pictures and the way we think about taking pictures.  With no limitations and no cost for film and processing, we take more pictures than was ever imaginable in the good ‘ol Kodachrome days.  My kids were born before digital became de facto.  When going on a family vacation it was a big deal (and often a financial consideration) to decide how many rolls of 12, 24 or 36 exposures we would bring along.  Burning through 3 rolls of 36 (a whopping 108 pictures) during a week long trip was a lot for me to take back then.  Today, with no consideration for film and processing, I might shoot 200 – 300 pictures in a single day without blinking (or worrying about the vacation budget.)

Let’s Get Physical

Thanks to digital I am interested in and enjoying photography more than I ever have before, but the bulk of the pictures I take these days remain in digital form.  I very rarely make prints of the images I capture.  They are backed up on various digital devices and drives, and exist online, but they generally aren’t readily available to touch and hold, or stumble upon when packing up a room in order to move… which is how my son came across the picture above (which I scanned to digital in order to share it with you here.)  That little boy with the big dog is now 22 years old, and just moved out into his own home. While packing his things it fell out from between some books… something a digital picture will never do.  It was a fun moment of random discovery that brought back some fond memories for the both of us.

Prints Or Pauper?

Do you take time to review your digital memories “on screen” as if they were still in the shoe-box?  Or do you print most of your pictures and still keep them around as stills in physical form?  What do you do to make sure you don’t miss the chance to encounter an old memory like my boy and his dog?  Please leave a comment and share how you keep your digital memories fresh in mind.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

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Masters Thursday is When I Miss My Dad the Most

20110406-112229.jpg

It’s Masters Thursday and that means it’s the day I miss my father more than any other day of the year. More than his birthday (and more than mine). More than the day he died 10 years ago (how can it be 10 years?!?)

You see…my dad loved golf. Loved to play it. Loved to watch it. All the time. Any player, any tournament, pro tour, qualifying tour or local high school kids. And every April, he’d settle in to watch the sport’s annual Super Bowl. How amazed he would be today that he could go out tomorrow and play a round of gold, bringing along a device like an iPad that could keep him up to date on the day’s scores in Augusta while he was putting in suburban Chicago. That he could pull up video replay of yesterday’s hole-in-one by Craig Stadler from wherever he was.

If your dad is no longer alive and with you, what makes you remember him most fondly? And if he is still here, what do you think that moment will be at that sad juncture down the road?

Work, Life and What’s In Between

I am cross posting this verbatim from my Dad the Single Guy blog because I think it will work as is for this audience as well:

A friend of mine who studies and embraces work-life balance shared a link on her Facebook recently to a US News blog about managing the work environment when things at home are not going very well.   And seeing as I’ve lived that experience, I was wondering how close I came to following the thoughts in the blog, since clearly I did not have the blog to fall back on.

(As an aside, of all of the things I have spent time researching, that is not one of them.  I always went with a mix of gut instinct and need to know, rather than creating a strategy).

Over the 13+ years I went to work with a wife at home with a brain tumor, in a rough count, I told or confided in 21 people at the supervisor level.  In some cases I told managers of managers, so all of these people were not my immediate supervisors, but all had supervisory responsibilities over me or my immediate bosses.  (I should say about two-thirds of this list covers the five years I spent working for CBS).  The other high-level observation is that the list grows quickly over the last 18 months as Risa’s condition worsened.

The 21 people noted above do not include my peers or the people who I managed who I also confided in over the years.  So without 1-critiquing the US News post and 2-offering up a check list of do’s and don’ts, here are some thoughts:

Maintain professionalism at all times.  Don’t say more than you are comfortable with and know how you will end the conversation on your terms.  People are generally curious, and try to relate things back to their own point of reference, it helps them understand the event.  Know where your limits are and be willing to say, “I really don’t want to get into that.”

Be honest with your boss(es) and co-workers.  You know what you are dealing with and you (should) know what that is doing to your mental and physical capacity.  The work will keep on piling up whether you can take it on or not.  You need to ask yourself if you can handle it, and try to stop the flow when it gets overwhelming.

Along these lines, see if you can work from home.  I know in my case, I commute 4 or so hours a day.  Work from home is time back.  Also, don’t be afraid to take a mental health day (and when you can wrap it into a long weekend).  Taking a day to take someone you are caring for to medical treatment, or dealing with a personal issue is not the downtime you need.  Physically and mentally, I found the odd mental health day did wonders.

Find a place to escape.  For me, it’s the gym.  Under normal circumstances, you’ll find me at the gym at 345 in the morning.  It’s not an ideal time for anything other than sleeping, and I know that.  But I also know it’s the time I can go to the gym and not have to worry about anything, deal with anything, get texts or call–it’s truly “me”time with no distractions.

There is a way to balance personal life issues with a full-time work schedule-and even personal life issues with your personal life so it’s not all over-whelming.  You do need to feel out the people you interact with and know what their limitations are-both to cope with you while you are coping and to potentially have to pick up some additional work or responsibilities while you are out.

During my career I’ve gotten two great pieces of advice about how to handle these stressful situations.  I just so happens, both came from female bosses.

One when my younger brother died suddenly.  My boss (I was working at ABC News) told me to do what I had to do to get it right-because I only had one shot at it.  And looking at that advice more at the macro level and less micro to that specific event-she was right.  Do what you need to do.  Know what you need to do and communicate that to the people you need to.  From there the rest follows.

The other piece I got was when I started at CBS News and my boss at the time asked me if it was OK to ask me questions about treatments, radiation and dealing with cancer.  What I did not know at the time was that her mother was approaching end-stage cancer.  We all carry something, and whether we mean to or not, we tend to judge one another on how we carry those things.

Your boss, co-worker or peer has something going on in their life that pulls their focus away.  It’s not a contest who has it worse-we all have degrees of things we have to carry.  Be compassionate and considerate.

 

Follow Me On the Yellow Brick (Road)

One of the interesting things about being a 40+ tech nerd is that I have what I think is a unique and different view of devices and apps than the usual 20-something.  So when I go to a Tweetup (a meeting of Twitter users), I am usually the oldest or among the oldest.  When I am part of a FourSquare swarm (20+ FourSquare check ins at a single location) again I am usually among the oldest there.  And frankly, I am pretty comfortable with it, I can hold my own.

Now, if you are reading this and do not know what FourSquare and Twitter are, it may be a little rough, but hang in and who knows maybe you can unleash your inner tech-nerd.

(If you are on Twitter and don’t yet, please do follow me @esd714)

For the last couple of weeks-at the urging of the CEO of a company called Yellow Brck I have been testing and using a location based social app geared to parent called Yellow Brick.  Its a free app for iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) available via iTunes.

Basically, the app allows you to mix location based checkins (FourSquare) with activity based check ins (Get Glue) and share them with your (limited right now) Facebook network.  When you dig a little deeper into the app, there are some good couponing features that are location based.

Right now, while the user base for the app is small, it seems most of the couponing is NYC based.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone not in the NYC area who tries this app if they have a different couponing experience.

To check in on the app, after opening it, select check in, and then drill down first through activities (and remember this is a parents and kids app).  The list includes movies, birthday parties, parks and nap time.  Once the activity is selected, you have the option of including a location.

Location services appear to be driven from the device’s LBS-so you have to agree to allow the app to know where you are and its a pretty extensive list.  One thing I would like to see going forward is a way to read review on locations-either via Yelp or home grown within the app.

Right now the app draws friends and shares information only with Facebook.  This is a calculated decision based on engagement on Facebook.  Twitter networks tend to be broader, but less engaged.  I would want to see this option (especially for friending) extended to Twitter.  In many cases I have friends who are mobile on Twitter but not on Facebook-but that may be a fringe use-case.

The other nice part about the network sharing, is the ability to not share location information with your network.  I have written about this extensively on my social media blog.  Its a best practice, and one that I practice dillegently to only share location information with people I actually know.

The flip-side is being able to connect with others (on FourSquare I have had many productive and inpromtu business meetings) based on check ins and knowing where key people in my network are.  The same with parenting (and Single Dadd’ing).  Its always great to hook up with friends and kids friends and a few fewer calls and texts to make it happen is not so bad.

For now, Yellow Brick is only available for iOS.  The CEO says an Android version is in the works.

Give it a shot, and friend me up.

The Modern-Day Family Summer Vacation

So we sat down at the computer like we always do (my wife and I that is) to figure out which week we needed to block out for the family summer vacation. We did this about a month ago, at the beginning of March.  We are still trying to figure it out.

I remember back when I was kid, you know, back when my mom dressed me and my brother in large butterfly collars made out of polyester?  But I digress.  Another post for another day.  Anyway, way back then our family always took a summer vacation somewhere.  We had a monster station wagon, ala Chevy Chase’s Vacation, that we packed to the gills and drove all over the country.  The gulf coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest… everywhere.  For a couple years we hauled a pop-up camper and stopped at every KOA campground we could find.  Beanie weenies out of a can, roasted marshmallows, and mom’s ham sandwich on white bread.  Then a couple years later we got a small motor home, and we were really high-rollers. Man, that was the life.

Holt familyDon’t get me wrong, the thought of spending days traveling in a station wagon just to get to where I need to go seems like torture today.  But God bless my parents for having the constitution to put up with me and my brother cooped up in that wagon.  Because what it did was build a boatload of memories that we still talk about today.  And it instilled in me the importance of carving out at least 1 week a year to bond as a family. So every year we go somewhere.  Don’t hand me this ‘stay-cation’ crap either.  We need to get out of town and have some fun.

So I do my dad-ly duties and document the entire thing with pics and video so I can make a video clip after it’s over.  Then we have a family video premier of last summer’s vacation prior to leaving for this year’s summer vacation.  We then laugh and talk about what great fun (or not so fun) that we had last summer, and get pumped up for this year’s summer vacation. (you can watch some of the videos here by the way, if you are interested: my family Youtube channel)

Which brings me back around to the point of this post.  We can’t find a free week to go on vacation this year.  Sports camps, 4H camps, church camps and mission trips, conferences my wife and I have to attend… the summer is already gone.  The summers seem to be getting shorter, our kids are getting busier, and the days of the family vacation may be slipping away like so much morning mist.  Surely other families are having the same problem??

But I remain confident that we will find a way.  By golly, we may have to put our foot down and tell the kids they have to skip a camp or two, but we will go on a family vacation.  And this year we are gonna make them eat beanie weenies and crackers for at least one meal.  I’m so excited, I can’t stand it!

Visiting Day At The Kids’ House (and Dinner for Dad)

2/3rds of the Sasslets

Kids: You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them!  Granted, that expression may have originally been coined for someone (er, some gender) other than kids, but these days I’d like to think it has ample applications to our offspring, for, as challenging and frustrating as being a parent can seem at times, the rewards far outweigh the work, and when the days of being needed daily suddenly come to an end it is, frankly, quite an adjustment.  I will soon be celebrating my 23rd year of fatherhood, and for the first time in over 22 years, I am living my life in a house without kids.

Empty Nest, Full of Pride…

Sure, it is an accomplishment to get your kids to the point when they can go out into the world on their own, and start playing in the same game of “adulthood” that we, ourselves, navigate each day.. but it is an accomplishment that comes with a price… the price of change… the price of not being “needed” in the ways you have become so accustomed to… in the ways the have been so deeply and dearly ingrained in your life as a parent. While I am filled with immense and immeasurable pride for my kids, for what they have accomplished, and more importantly, for the fine young people they have become, I am at times overwhelmed by how much I miss having them around.  I knew this was coming, and that I was about to experience a taste of sunrise, sunset, but I never imagined how truly different things would feel.

Keep Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Closer, And Your Kids As Close As Possible

While my middle son has been thriving at college in Boston for a few years now, I was spoiled to have the other two here with me at home.  Now, since my oldest son has become a first time homeowner and has absconded with my daughter, his sister, as a housemate, I am left to my own devices, and fewer vices.  Miraculously, there are no longer stacks of filthy dishes in the sink when I come home.  Lights and televisions are not left on in rooms that are unoccupied.  Plates of half eaten food and half filled glasses are not strewn about the most unlikely nooks and crannies of the house to feed the undernourished community of grateful ants. The laundry room is available for me to do my laundry… any time I want.  My house is CLEAN.  My house is QUIET.  My house is BORING.  Luckily, my “local” kids have only moved ten minutes away, and in an odd twist of “role reversal” after so many years of feeding them, I was invited to “their house” for dinner for the first time.

It was wonderful.

Parenthood is forever, and forever changes.  Cherish every moment along the way.  The things you find most aggravating today are likely the things you will miss most sorely when they are gone…

(And if you can get at least one of your kids to become a professional chef, you’ll enjoy “dinner at the kids house” even more!)

2:58 a.m.

… and I’m sound asleep.

“Joey? The dog.”

I hate this. But I don’t fight it. My wife needs her sleep. And I can usually fall right back to sleep.Beautiful Starry Sky @ Likas, Kota Kinabalu

The dog bolts out the front door. I wait.

Nothing.

“Brooklyn!” “Brook!”

Five minutes. Ten.

Finally the dog resurfaces. By now, I’ve complained about him on Twitter.

At this point, I’m kind of awake but decide to go upstairs.

“Dad?”

Ugh. It’s 7yo Lucas. He’s had another nightmare. He’s in his robe, standing in the hallway. I know there is no way he’s falling right back to sleep so I think if I go to bed with him maybe we have a chance.

But his bed doesn’t have the pillows I like (need?). And he doesn’t have heavy covers. And it’s a little cold.

“Come close to Dad. I’ll hold you,” making up somewhat for the missing “arm pillow” I require.

But in five minutes it’s clear. He’s too awake. He’s not going back to sleep.

“Let’s go downstairs for some cereal. And bring your book.”

It’s 3:59 now. We’ve had our cereal. He’s on the computer playing Plants vs. Zombies (don’t tell Beth) and I’m here typing this.

It’s not what I had planned for my pre-dawn Saturday morning. But here we are.

Can you relate?

:: Joe Hage is CEO and Founder of medical device marketing firm Medical Marcom ::

Creative Commons License photo credit: thienzieyung