Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Wife Has Left Us.*

The bad news is my wife has left us*.

* The good news is it is for only 3 weeks!

Although we have had our share of marital discord, fortunately, we are not at that state of permanent leaving. (At least I hope not!)

My wife took a gig teaching at a new business school in Barcelona Spain for 3 weeks.  The school is Harbour Space , a new European university, and she's teaching her expertise- digital marketing.  It was a great opportunity for her, and I encouraged her to do it.  (As she would encourage me to take a great gig, should it arrive.)

She flew out yesterday and arrived today.

They are so cool they don't have a logo, but a video backdrop!
This will be the longest that she's been apart from us (or me) in 8 years certainly, but maybe all 13 years of our history. ( I may have gone on tour for 3 weeks during one of those years, so maybe I was away longer.  )  It's still a long time to be away.

And it is a long time to be a single dad.

I think it will be either a very quick 3 weeks or a very long 3 weeks, and it all kind of depends on how stuff goes. I don't anticipate many problems, as I do most of the everyday care-giving now.

 But problems happen,  emergencies occur, and sh-t goes down. I am sure there will be some moments when my son will bug me beyond belief, and I'll be wishing for a couple of moments to myself.  Or when I will need her cool-headed advice about some thorny parenting problem.  Or when my son injures himself and cries out for his momma and she isn't there. Or when I haven't gotten all the things done I want to get done, who will I blame?   Or when I need her loving embrace around my throb---  this is a family blog! 

Oh my God, how will I ever survive!

* Please note the asterisk on the title.

I think it will be fine.  When I dropped her off at the airport, he was crying and crying.  But it only lasted about two minutes.  By the time we left the airport, we were over the crying which is exactly where we should have been.  Today, we facetimed from her sweet little apartment on the Barcelona Ramblas, and he was excited for about a minute, and then left to read his book.  I think the boy will be fine! And so will I.

Like anything, it's a step at a time.  We are planning extra play dates, extra time with local family members, some fun movie time, some fun theatre time, and some special dad time. And some time in just doing what we do- it will be an object lesson in how you can't have everything you want whenever you want it.  Because that's the fact of life.  It will work out.  We will survive.

If you've got some extra-special single dad tips, please post them in the comments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Amazing Garden started by Brenae Brown at Dad 2.0

I usually write a roundup post at the end of Dad 2.0, but I had an insight today that couldn't wait.

Four years ago, Brenae Brown came to Dad 2.0 and talked about vulnerability and shame.  (For those that weren't there, or haven't encountered Brenae Brown, I encourage you to watch this video.  I'll wait.

This isn't exactly everything she said, but she said substantially the same thing.

At the time, Dad 2.0 was very focused on brand relationships, and lots of the workshops were about working with brands.  Not a bad thing, and I appreciated that and the knowledge that I garnished. 

But this year, there's a whole different level.

Yesterday and today, there have been a number of speakers that spoke about depression and hard times in one form or another.

  • Mike Cruse @papapreaches talked about how he felt broken, and his depression and how his drugs weren't walking and how it affected his family, 
  • Tony Buchsbaum  @tbuchsbaum spoke about realizing he was gay and how that journey to find himself affected his family.
  • Doyin Richards @daddydoinwork spoke about his depression and about how people put him in a weird box of being a black dad.
  • Matt Parker @theexodusroad spoke about his work defeating child slavery in Thailand and Southeast Asia
  • Glen/Beleaf @beleafme talked about his suicide and hard life, including his mom telling him she should have aborted him.
  • Buzz Bishop @DadCAMP talked about a friend of his whose baby was born needing a blood transfusion and nearly died.
  • Tobin Walsh @thegoodbaddad talked about how he feels he's failing to raise his adopted son as a good black man 

And there were other phenomenal speakers as well.  But after all this talk of depression and hard times, I made kind of a joke that apparently I needed to be more depressed to be a better dad blogger. 

 But as I thought more about it, I remembered that incredibly moving talk that Brenae Brown gave and realized that the seeds of vulnerability that Brenae Brown planted are blooming.

And it's a pretty amazing garden.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dad 2.0- San Diego

Just some of the great sponsors of Dad 2.0
I just arrived in San Diego for the 6th annual Dad 2.0 Summit.  I've written about this event a number of times before SEE THOSE HERE.  It's a conference for dads who write and blog.

The first event was a fantastic Drone Experience (sponsored by Best Buy and DJI (makers of the drones)  I missed the one last year, so was determined to make this one (and I did)

I did a pretty good job of flying the drones.  These things are around $1000-$1500, so they are not that entry level, but they hover like a charm, are super heavy duty, and their photography is awesome!

I'm enrolled in a contest to win one, so I'm hoping that I do!

- here's a little video of me flying the drone like a BOSS!  ---

 Anway I got to talking to a first time Dad 2.0 Summit goer.  He's a guy who has a huge following (600K on Youtube, and he vlogs 4 times a week, does lots of brand stuff, etc.) He's based here in San Diego, heard about the conference, and showed up.  He asked me what I like about the conference, and I thought it was worthwhile to repeat this.

I appreciate of course,  meeting brands, and hopefully getting some business.  But for me, that's not why I come.  As a stay-at-home dad (or a "write at home" dad)  I don't have a lot of opportunity to meet colleagues.  I meet a lot of other dads, but most of them are working. I meet a lot of moms, but they aren't men who are primary caregivers.

At this point, 6 years in, I love to come to Dad 2.0 to meet with my community.  I see them online, but having a face to face interaction is just so much better.

The conference will go on for 3 days, and will feature a fair amount of brands, but also talks, and panels, and other moments about how to be a better blogger, how to be a better dad, and how to be a better person.  I'm going to soak it all in, and drink beer with my colleagues.

While I'm here, I want to thank the sponsors of Dad 2.0, without which this conference would be vastly unaffordable for me. Please look kindly on these guys, who are supportive of the dad blogging community.

Check out their twitters (in the photo to the right, and follow them as a good deed.)

They deserve it.

Okay, got to go downstairs and commune with the Dads!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Disneyworld: The Four Park Challenge

We are in Disney World for a few days, as it is my wife and my son's happy place, and a place that I really really like.  We became DVC members last year, which means we will be vacationing at the Most Magical Place On Earth for years to come.

We've got some time to roam and explore, now that we know that we will be here for a while, and so, on a random Tuesday, we embarked on a mad mad adventure: a quest to "do" all 4 parks in a single day.  The Four Park Challenge. It's kind of like a Disney Bucket list.

What does it mean to "do" a park?
Well, everybody has a theory, and here's ours.  Seeing every ride is right out of the question (You could do it in one park, maybe, and many people have, but I know you couldn't in all 4 parks on the same day.  Doing all 4 parks every ride in 4 straight days is another bucket list we might take on another time.  That would be like a Disneyworld Ironman!

For us, we decided that for our park to count, we would have to do the following.

• Go on at least 3 rides or shows..
• Have a photo taken at one iconic area.
• Eat something in every park.
• Trade a pin in every park (we are inveterate pin traders) (at least one of us)
• Use the restroom in every park. (at least one of us)

We did it!  Although our feet and backs were sore by the end of the day (by the time my day ended at midnight, I'd walked 24000+ steps (over 11 miles!), been on 17 rides, and had a great day with the family.

I highly recommend this for your family, especially if you've been to Disney before, and want to see it in a new light/push your boundaries kind of way.  I also recommend that you make up the rules to fulfill the challenge what feels right for you and your family!  It's your vacation, spend it how you please!

Here's our itinerary for our bucketlist day.


Us in front of the Magic Kingdom Castle
 We took our picture on the way in in front of the castle.
8 AM:  Visit Be Our Guest for an early breakfast.
8:40 AM: Get in line for early rides on 7 Dwarves Mine Train.  We rode it 3 times!
9:10 AM: Walk over to TomorrowLand. While here we rode TomorrowLand Speedway, Astro-Orbital Launcher, the Laugh Floor, the PeopleMover, and Buzz Lightyear.

This took us until about 10:30 AM.  We then took the Express bus over to  Hollywood Studios.  The Express bus is a new bus service that allows you travel backstage between all 4 parks.  It's brand new, and its advantage is that you don't have to go through security again.  The disadvantage is that it costs extra.  Right now in the trial phase it's $24 per person for one week of usage.  That's a pretty good deal!


Us in front of the Bauman Chinese Theatre
in Hollywood Studios
We took our picture on the way in in front of Rockin' Roller Coaster,
11 AM:   We got in around 11 am.  It drops you off right at Rockin' Roller Coaster but my wife and child couldn't be convinced to get on.  So we took another picture in front of the Movie Ride/Main Street.   Then we rode the following three rides:
Star Tours
Muppets in 3D
Toy Story Midway Mania

We then stopped for lunch at 1:15 at the ABC Commissary, neither of us had been there before,  And then caught the bus over to Animal Kingdom for our third park of the day.


Us in front of the Tree of Life at
Animal Kingdom
We arrived at Animal Kingdom at around 2:30.  It took us a while to get our bearings.  We couldn't find a photographer right away, and we were trying to hook up with a friend who was in that park on that day (unfortunately, we arrived a little late, and they left a little early, so we missed them)

We ended up going on Everest (which both my wife and son were scared about, but ended up doing just fine on.  My son said Never Again.  But at least he conquered his fear about getting on.    After that we had a snack at the local shop.

After Everest we rode
Bugs Life in the big tree of Life.  (where we finally found a photographer)

We  then had to walk back around the park to get to the Backstage Express to get to our final park of the day:  Epcot.


Last park of the day!  Us in front of the "Golf Ball" at Epcot.
By this time we were pretty sore and not sure if we could continue.  But we did anyway!
We rode 3 rides here as well.

Spaceship Earth (which had a fault as were were getting started, and was halted for about 10 minutes)
Nemo at the Seas
Imagination with Figment

We walked back over to eat dinner at the Electric Umbrella, and then slowly made our way back to our hotel (Beach Club)  My wife and son went back to the room, and I met up with a friend who performs on the Boardwalk (Coney Island Chris)

 It was cold by then, so Chris was inside the Boardwalk Hotel.  After that, I had drinks with Chris and his wife, and then went back to the hotel to try to get some shuteye so that we could be back in the parks the next day!  I got to sleep around midnight!  Long day!

Over all, trying the challenge was a great and different way to see the parks.  I'd definitely recommend it, if you have already been to the parks once, and want to see if you can do it!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Steve Goodman Post Office

Steve Goodman was a Chicago music legend--singer/songwriter on par with Randy Newman, Cat Stevens, and that ilk.  He wrote a number of amazing songs, including "City of New Orleans"  He also wrote the song that the Cubs sing "Go Cubs Go."  as well as "The Dying Cubs Fan Last Request."  When I went to college, I had several of his albums, and was, well, not a superfan, but enjoyed his music.  I think he was much better known as  a songwriter than as a singer, but I knew his albums.

I didn't really know the Chicago connection, so imagine my surprise when I roll up to the post office on Southport and Irving Park and find this sign.

I immediately knew who they meant, but I was just so surprised to find out that he would have a post office dedicated to him.  I wondered if he had been a postman in his day job.  Then I found out about his Chicago connection, and his tragic fight with leukemia, which I hadn't known about.  And it made sense.
Did a little more research, and found that Obama had signed this building into law in 2010.

I think it's really great that the post office named a building after him.  Normalizing and memorializing artists is important.

Here's some more photos from the display case at the Post Office.

If you want to find out more about him, look at the Amazon links below or go to

You can find some of his music on Amazon:

CLICK HERE for a full set of albums, or browse some of his most famous below.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Protect your family and our society: 20 ways to resist fascism

While I try not to get into politics too much on this blog, I thought this was important enough to write a post about it.

Timothy Snyder, the author of Black Earth: The Holocaust As History and Warning, posted this essay  on his facebook page a while back. These 20 lessons are good ways to innoculate ourselves and our society to the lure of fascism.

I want to disseminate these ideas as widely as possible.

A good portion of these are internal ideas- things you do by yourself, about your own thinking.   They require no outside action, except perhaps a change in your thinking or your behavior.

Some of the ideas are external, meaning they require an outside action for you to complete them.

Many of them are not DIRECTLY related to resisting fascism, but rather are good practices to prevent fascism from taking hold, and warning signs that democracy is losing.

I also want to encourage you to take a moment to talk over these ideas with your children.  A number of these lessons are good life lessons as well and appropriate to children, especially about being courageous, about standing out, about giving to good causes, about believing in the truth, and about making personal connections and eye contact.

I think that a lot of people might read this and say, "Oh I never do that" or "I already know this!"  I ask you to take a few moments to re-examine not your knowledge, but your behavior to ensure that you are following in practice what you may know is right in real life.

This is important.

Following text by Timothy Snyder

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don't use the Internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the Internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chicago Puppet Fest for the Next 10 days

For the next 10 days, local, national, and international puppet companies are descending on Chicago to partake in the second biannual Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival.  There are over 20 venues, over 50 performances, a symposium, a neighborhood tour, and lots lots more.

This is the second year of the festival, which runs every two years.

Here's the preview video of the festival:

2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival: January 19-29 from Wickstrom Design on Vimeo.

The festival is founded and directed by Blair Thomas, a world-renowned puppeteer and designer who resides right here in Chicago. Blair has twice earned the highest international puppet honor, the UNIMA Excellence in Puppetry Award. He's taught at a number of universities, and is currently on faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His company (appropriately titled Blair Thomas & Co.) is the producer of the festival, and has created over a dozen original puppet theatre pieces.

The festival has a number of different events aimed at different audiences. I'm selecting a few for family audiences, but please go to their website and check out all of the shows available.  They have shows that are aimed at adults also.  Don't bring the kids to those, but you will be delighted!

 Here's a link to the pdf of the Map and schedule.


Italy’s Teatro dei Piedi (January 20-22) stages characters whose stories are by turns romantic, ironic, poetic and ridiculous – with their feet! Using puppetry, mime, and a little bit of contortion, Laura Kibel and Veronic González put their hands, feet and knees together to create extraordinarily articulate characters.
Please Note: This performance takes place at two different venues.
Beverly Art Center: Friday, January 20 at 7:00pm and Saturday, January 21 at 11:00am
Instituto Cervantes:Saturday, January 21 at 7:00pm and Sunday, January 22 at 11:00am

Adventure Stage Chicago presents Bulgarian theatre company Théatre Puzzle's show Plastique. (January 21-23)   The show presents a plastic bag world where the colorful plastic creatures within appear, transform, fly, get bored, fall in love, get angry, etc.   As the puppets perform, they start to resemble people (at least in their actions) This show is supposed to be very funny, and looks very fun.

Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic (January 26-29) is a visually breathtaking cinematic shadow play for all ages, created by Hamid Rahmanian in collaboration with Larry Reed. The play unfolds an action-packed magical tale of star-crossed lovers from the 10th-century Persian epic Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). Inspired by Iranian visual traditions, Rahmanian uses puppets, costumes, masks,  and digital animation to bring the story to life on a cinema-sized screen.  The show runs 70 minutes long, and is suitable for all ages.  MORE INFO

Open Eye Figure Theatre’s adaptation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (January 27-28)  is a look at youth, aging, and the allure of power. Creator Michael Sommers uses Goethe’s 1797 poem Der Zauberlehrling as inspiration, expanding on the young apprentice’s mishaps and mistakes in this original work with a unique Open Eye approach. With its highly-designed production, original score, and masterful puppetry, the show appeals to both adults and children. MORE INFO

Manual Cinema transforms Edith Nesbit’s novel The Magic City (January 27-29) into a live, cinematic shadow puppet show in this new work commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre. When a young girl moves into a new home, she entertains herself by building a city using household objects. Through some magic, she finds herself inside the city, surrounded by life.  Please note: Performances January 27-29 are Previews.  The show will run at Chicago Children's Theatre through Feb. 19. MORE INFO

Make sure to find the rest of the Puppet festival shows on their website