Category Archives: Uncategorized

How The West Wing on Netflix Got Me Through the Election

west wing cast
Bring back President Bartlet!

It’s no secret the outcome of the presidential election was not to my liking. Which is an understated way of saying I was absolutely devastated in every way, shape, and form.

And when I’m upset, I binge-watch.

Netflix may not have started with therapeutic intentions, but I’m willing to bet it’s become that for millions of customers. And after it became clear I was going to have to raise my kids under President Donald Trump, I needed a distraction in a big way.

I needed The West Wing on Netflix.

It might seem strange to immediately watch a political show when politics is the cause of my stress in the first place. But after 15 months of watching Trump say horrifically ignorant things only to be rewarded with the highest office in the land, I needed the fictional White House of my dreams.

I wanted President Josiah Barlet’s steady hand and unmatched intellect. I craved Sam Seaborn’s unrelenting idealism and deep love for doing the right thing at all costs. I longed for Toby Ziegler’s stubbornness matched only by his ability to string together perfect words to form transcendent speeches in the loftiest of moments. And I marveled at Josh Lyman’s witty arrogance combined with his heartfelt dedication to the service of his country.

I’m of the opinion intelligence should be held in the highest esteem, and Aaron Sorkin writes brilliantly smart dialogue. The banter between cast members moves at light speed with expert precision, and the result is some truly memorable scenes that will forever stand out in your memory. Like this one.

I have re-watched the whole first season of West Wing since the election. Unfortunately, I fear it’s the only recourse I’ll have if I want to see an extraordinary intellectual painstakingly weigh crucial decisions of national importance instead of firing off an ill-advised tweet that seeks to strip Americans of their Constitutionally protected rights.

In a world turned temporarily insane, Netflix is my escape and my therapy. Let’s hope there’s four years worth of entertainment to keep us all occupied.


netflix stream team logo

I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

Share Button

Don’t Be a Dick

dont-be-a-dick

“Dad, what do we do now?”

That was the most pressing question my 8-year-old asked me in the wake of Trumpageddon. I was focusing on how did we get here, what went wrong, and how the hell can people be this stupid? But, as usual, my oldest son directed my attention to what’s really important — the “what now?”

You see, I spent most of this election telling my son Trump wouldn’t win. I told him that because I believed in this country’s common sense and ability to sniff out an obvious con-man who threatened the very foundation upon which the United States is built. I told him bullies don’t win in the end.

But the bully did win. Ignorance, hate, and divisiveness won. There’s nothing I can do about that now, so where do we go from here and how did I answer my son’s question? After some contemplation, I looked him straight in the eye and said the following:

“Just don’t be a dick.”

I didn’t make that up, I stole it from my friend Oren Miller. It was his one guiding principle when he started a dad blogger Facebook group that has swelled to more than 1,200 members. Cancer took him from us in 2015 but his painful absence doesn’t make the advice any less pertinent. Especially now.

Unfortunately the election is lost. Donald Trump will be our next President of the United State for at least four years. A lot of us don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. However, not being a dick is a great way to do our part to combat the dickishness in which our country is currently awash.

I told Will if he sees or hears bullies at school trashing people (especially minorities), step in and help. Because not taking action is still being a dick, and defending classmates lets them know they’re not alone.

Stumble upon some lily white morons telling kids who look different from them to go back where they came from? Breathing a sigh of relief just because they’re not picking on you is still being a dick, so put yourself in between the bullies and the bullied. I told Will as a white male, he’s got an easier time than most so he needs to make sure he’s got some skin in the game, because discrimination is never acceptable.

Hear someone telling a female classmate she can’t participate in something like science or sports just because she’s a girl? Don’t be a dick — shut that shit down immediately. Many women had hammers in hand to finally break through that glass ceiling, only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the eleventh hour. But this is not their fight, it’s our fight. All of us. You don’t need to rescue damsels in distress, you just need to stand up for what’s right and help your fellow people.

Don’t be a dick about refugees. The vast majority of refugees are not terrorists and are simply trying to keep their families alive. If that were me, I’d break every immigration rule possible if it meant keeping my family safe from the bombs raining down on them. Be empathetic and tell those who would rather build walls and deny entrance to our country based on religious discrimination that you’re not going to put up with that crap. I guarantee others will follow your lead.

Gay people just got the right to marry who they want, but now they’re facing an administration that openly hates them and is threatening to nominate Supreme Court judges who could potentially delegitimize their families. So don’t be a dick by calling people “faggots” and don’t let other people get away with slurs. You’ll be surrounded by kids who are gay but too afraid to come out, and even if they never thank you personally for standing up for them in public, they’ll feel less alone because you did. You never know what’s going to save someone from going over the edge, so be a stand-up guy instead of a dick.

And lastly, don’t listen to the people who will claim YOU are being a dick by speaking out against others. There’s a difference between basic political disagreements and standing up against racists, misogynists, and xenophobes. Trump is in the latter category and his supporters condoned those things by voting for him. Will, you can never be too intolerant of intolerance, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

This is a dark time, my boy. It’s also an exceedingly dangerous time because standards of decency are shifting. What should be unacceptable is now presidential, and normalizing our most fanatical and awful behaviors leads to the erosion of all things good and just. So don’t fall into that basket of deplorables.

Don’t be a dick, even if we just elected one.

Share Button

It’s Not About Politics

trump mocks disabled reporter

The people devastated about President-elect Donald Trump are not whining about petty politics. Because this isn’t about politics – it never has been.

I know empathy is not a trait in large supply among the largely under-educated, white, angry Trump base, but humor me in this little exercise. Your guy already won so why not, right?

Imagine just for a moment you’re a gay, married person in America right now. You have spent years trying to convince everyone your love is just as valid as everyone else’s. You have fought tirelessly, not for special treatment, but simply to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. You have been berated by bigots, called every slur in the book, and been told your legal marriage to someone of the same sex would erode society’s values and represent an abomination in God’s eyes. But finally, through all that, you won. Love won. And now you’re free to marry who you want and enjoy all the rights that come with that.

Then you wake up on November 9 and find all of those gains threatened.

Donald Trump is against gay marriage. But even more troubling, vice president-elect Mike Pence is REALLY against it. Trump has vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, which means there is a very real possibility gay marriage could be reversed, and gay people relegated to second-class citizenship once again.

That’s not being upset about politics, that’s abject and very legitimate fear that someone is actively threatening your family.

Now imagine you’re someone with a preexisting medical condition. This isn’t hard for me, since my wife is in this category. You struggled for years because no one would insure you and you paid exorbitant prices for treatment and medication. Your health suffered immensely. Your quality of life was significantly impacted. You lived in constant pain and fear of being able to afford to live.

Then came the ACA (ObamaCare) and suddenly your prayers were answered. Health insurance companies could no longer deny you because of a preexisting condition, and suddenly millions like you had access to quality, more affordable care. Your health improved, your quality of life improved, and even your mental state improved because you weren’t constantly worried about going broke just to stay alive.

Then comes news of President Trump, and what’s his first order of business? Repealing ObamaCare. And suddenly all that fear, pain, and uncertainty comes flooding back. Yesterday, my wife frantically made phone calls to move up a surgery because as of January, there’s a very real possibility it will no longer be covered if she’s dropped by her provider. The woman on the other end of the phone said “You’re not alone, we’re flooded with calls today.”

That’s not being upset about politics, that’s legitimate fear of no longer being able to afford medical care. It is, quite literally for many people, a matter of life and death.

Now picture yourself as a woman who is pregnant. It doesn’t matter the circumstances – planned, accident, rape, incest – because for whatever reason, you don’t want the baby anymore. It’s more than a little ridiculous that women had to go to court to be able to control their own bodies, but Roe vs Wade has been the law of the land for 40+ years giving you the option of ending the pregnancy if you wish.

But suddenly the man who vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices specifically to overturn that landmark case is elected president. Now you’re afraid your own personal medical decisions will no longer be guided by you and your doctor, but white, religious male politicians who value the collection of cells inside of you more than the living, breathing person housing them.

That’s not sour grapes about politics, it’s the very real fear that the government will soon dictate your reproductive health decisions and potentially force you to give birth against your will.

What Trump supporters don’t understand is this particular election of this particular candidate is a direct attack on non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual people.

Trump was heard advocating sexual assault and “grabbing women by the pussy” just weeks before the election. But instead of his campaign faltering, he seemed to get the push he needed to cross the finish line. Think about that. A man was rewarded with the presidency after bragging about sexual assault. If you’re wondering what people mean by “rape culture,” look no further.

The message that sent to women everywhere is “this is OK.” In fact, it’s presidential.

Let’s also not forget people of color. Although Trump didn’t receive many newspaper endorsements, he did receive one notable one. The KKK’s newspaper endorsed him, and known racist David Duke campaigned hard for Trump. Trump also re-tweeted white supremacists on Twitter dozens of times over the campaign, and it’s no secret he holds Black Lives Matter in very little regard.

With a large segment of supporters wielding Confederate flags and Trump only mentioning black people in conjunction with inner cities (not to mention Trump’s history of being sued by the DOJ for not renting his property to black people), how are people of color supposed to take this other than a direct insult and threat?

I think the real reason people are heartbroken is because we woke up in America we don’t recognize. For well-intentioned people with privilege (myself included) who gave this country the benefit of the doubt and 100% believed reasonable people would plainly see the danger Trump represents, this is nothing short of shocking. And for many who aren’t minorities, it’s the first realization that hate, anger, and fear might be the majority opinion.

Don’t think for a second that liberals have any less love for America simply because we don’t deck out our vehicles in American flag decals and NRA stickers. We love America deeply and passionately, just like you do. But we truly believed our America was one where bullies lose in the end and love trumps hate.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, and that crushes us.

I can only hope Donald Trump the President does not remotely resemble Donald Trump the campaigner. As a deeply patriotic person, I have no choice but to hope he surrounds himself with competent people not on the fringe, and to remember he lost the popular vote, which means a majority of US citizens did not choose him to lead us.

But if he does continue on the path he blazed during the campaign, it’s up to all of us to fight it. To unequivocally support those who will undoubtedly be more vulnerable than ever under President Trump. To stay, fight, and advocate for what we know to be right.

We wake up today in a place that looks familiar, yet is now unrecognizable. We mourn the country we thought we knew but ultimately didn’t, and we come to grips with how to love that country despite its choice to embrace hate and divisiveness.

We don’t know exactly what’s next, but we know one thing – it’s not about politics.

Share Button

Now I Know Why They Call Them Rescue Dogs

Haley enjoying Cahoon Hollow Beach on Cape Cod
Haley enjoying Cahoon Hollow Beach on Cape Cod

My dog died yesterday.

It was expected because she was old and in declining health, but unexpected in that she died after being hit by a car. In full view of the kids. The end result of a still mischievous but half blind/deaf dog taking advantage of a door that didn’t quite latch.

I was on the train home from Boston when I got the call, and I immediately broke down in tears. Which is fitting, perhaps, since sadness is what led me to her in the first place.

It was 2007. I was a newlywed living on Cape Cod and working as a journalist. An investigative piece I was working on led to the revelation of some pretty severe canine abuse, and I was so disturbed by what I saw that I began volunteering at the local dog shelter.

But my disgust at the mistreatment of those dogs wasn’t the only reason I was there.

Despite having a job I liked and marrying the woman of my dreams, things had turned fairly nightmarish in a hurry. MJ was in the middle of a downward spiral we’d later find out was bipolar disease. Her manic periods had given way to crippling bouts of depression, and she had no love for herself never mind any to give to me. She was sad all the time and talked constantly of running away and never coming back. I would tell her how much I loved her, but that just seemed to make her feel guilty and she shut down.

But the dogs at the shelter were always happy to see me and pummel me with affection. That’s literally what happened the first time I saw Haley — she ran around the counter, jumped up, and hit me right in the balls.

And then she captured my heart.

Haley was brought to the shelter by a wife whose husband thought a dog would save their marriage. It didn’t. As a result, poor Haley was put on a kennel run and largely ignored for 14 hours a day. And because she loved people but was around them so little, she craved attention and closeness. She also thought any time you left the room you were never coming back, so when you did she was so happy she could barely contain herself.

She had endless affection and devotion to give, and I had a limitless need for love and companionship. The only problem? Convincing MJ.

You see, she was fairly open to the idea of a dog but she had conditions:

  1. No dogs over 50 lbs
  2. No ridiculously excitable dogs
  3. No dogs with long hair

Haley was 0 for 3. But I knew in my heart she was the one, so I made one of the only unilateral, executive decisions I’ve ever made in my marriage — I signed up to temporarily foster her. My wife was FURIOUS when I came with a 75-pound ball of excitable, long-haired, slobbery love. But that fury soon gave way to having her heart melted by our sweet girl, and then “temporary” home turned to “permanent” in a matter of days.

haley-002I bought Haley the most expensive dog bed I could find, and then let it go completely unused because she cuddled right next to me on the bed every night. We went everywhere together and walked the Cape Cod Canal, hiked local trails, and went for runs. She was a retriever in name only because she never fetched a damn thing in her life, but she was a slobbering pile of unadulterated love and I loved her right back.

She was a total beta, but if she heard a noise or thought an intruder was present, watch the hell out — her growl was deep and fierce and scared off at least one lurker I can remember. But I didn’t want an attack dog, because we wanted a pup who’d be great with kids — and Haley delivered.

WillHaley_frontHaley was so gentle with kids, even when they climbed on her, pulled her ears, and stepped on her. She really bonded with Will and she was his “sister” for 5.5 years before Sam came along. When we’d practice sharing, Will would have to share with Haley and I’ll never forget how cute the two of them would be, staring out the window every day that I got home from work.

With Sam it was a little different. The two of them got along well enough, but it was always a tempered and grudging respect. Neither of them fully embraced the other, and there was much jockeying for position in the household hierarchy.

haleytommyBut Tommy? I’m not sure what it was about Tommy, but Haley loved him immediately — and vice versa. Tommy’s favorite thing to do is crawl/walk over to Haley and place his cheek gently on her head. I don’t blame him, Haley’s ear are wonderfully soft velvet. When she slept at the foot of the bed, my toes would search for those ears and I’d immediately sleep more soundly and with much comfort.

Comfort. That’s going to be my one biggest regret — that I couldn’t comfort her at the end and pay her back for the massive amount of comfort she brought to me in the nearly 10-year long span we were together.

I knew she was at the end of the road. Her health was terrible, she had tumors everywhere, she could barely stand, she couldn’t navigate stairs, she had lost control of her bladder, and the sound she made while breathing was terrible. We were in the midst of making arrangements to put her down when this happened, I just…well, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Even last night, as my shovel dug a hole through roots and rocks in my parents’ yard where she loved to play, I couldn’t let go. I carried her from the car, wrapped her in her favorite soft blanket, and cried. I sat there for 30 minutes next to her grave, in the dark and the rain, with her head cradled in my arms, because not being able to feel the comfort of those velvety ears seems unimaginable to me. So I kept taking a few more minutes. Just a little more time. One more scratch behind the ear.

We might have given her a good life, but as corny as it sounds, the rescue rescued me. The dog who lavished us with love, slobbered sentiment all over us, and made our home a better place.

What started with her hitting me right in the nuts ended with the gut punch of loss. But in between are countless moments of comfort and peace dogs seem to bestow upon us so effortlessly, yet we take them for granted time and time again. For nearly 10 years she filled our lives with life and love and tons of slobber, and her only goal in life was to be near her people. Actual people live much longer lives and never approach a more noble and meaningful existence.

haleypregoI preferred Haley’s company to that of most people, and I’ll miss her as I would a friend. I’ll miss her frenzied and joyful leaps when I walked in the door, even if I was only gone 30 seconds. I’ll miss her ninja-like maneuvering for food, even at the end when she could barely move. I’ll miss the feel of her fur pressed against my face when I needed comfort I couldn’t find anywhere else. I’ll miss her gentleness with the kids. And I’ll never forget her constant vigilance when MJ was pregnant — resting her head on her belly, and knowing when she was going into labor even before MJ did.

We gave Haley a soft bed, lots of food, and a warm home. She gave us a decade of life, love, and unlimited slobbery kisses. We got the better end of that deal.

Dog owners, give your pups an extra squeeze today. And if you’re thinking about getting a rescue, just realize you’ll probably be the one who ends up getting saved, not the other way around.

Thanks for saving me, sweet girl.

haleyfloor

Share Button

All You Need is Love (and Beat Bugs on Netflix)

Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles
Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles

It’s not always easy to know if you’re raising kids the right way, but if they know about The Beatles from a young age, then congratulations — you’re doing at least one thing very right.

But introducing young kids to old music isn’t easy. If parents say “Hey guys, I’ve got this great music you’re just going to love,” then that’s the kiss of death. So how do you get kids to stop listening to all the annoying crap and like the things you like? You trick them into it.

I admit, I had my doubts about the Netflix original, Beat Bugs, because at first glance it seems like just another obnoxious kid cartoon. Plus the sun has a face that really freaks me out. But then I realized it’s a cartoon built entirely around Beatles songs, and it quickly got really awesome up in the Daddy Files household.

My kids took to the theme song and haven’t stopped singing “All You Need Is Love” since. And let me tell you, there are few things cuter than a 3-year-old belting out “ALL YOU NEED IS WUV!” over and over again. The story is about five bug friends who live in some guy’s lawn, but that’s not really important. What you and your kids will love are the more than 25 Beatles songs that will warm your heart when sung by the next generation.

And some big stars are voicing them, too. You’ve got:

  • P!nk: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
  • James Corden: “I’m A Loser”
  • Aloe Blacc: “Rain”
  • Robbie Williams: “Good Day Sunshine”
  • Eddie Vedder: “Magical Mystery Tour”
  • Frances: “In My Life”
  • The Shins: “The Word”
  • Wesley Schultz (of the Lumineers): “Honey Pie”
  • Sia: “Blackbird”

When Tommy hears the opening he loses his mind. When the older two hear the familiar strains they flock to the couch. Beat Bugs has the distinction of being the only thing that can bring my three boys together on the couch for an extended period of time without killing one another. That right there is worth it.

beatbugsboys

So if you’re a fan of children singing adorably and a Beatles aficionado, you’re going to love Beat Bugs. And if you’re not a Beatles fan, then you’re clearly a cyborg and this isn’t for you.

As a Netflix StreamTeam member, I received free Netflix for a year and other products for this post. But as always, all opinions are my own.

Share Button