A Barroom Blessing

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“Life has been cloudy and grey
Take the bad memories and put them away
For the sun has come out , we have waited so long
All of the hard days are gone”

I’m not a religious man and I don’t pray. But after five miscarriages, even the most ardent atheist will get a little desperate and start to wonder if there are outside forces working against you. And more importantly, what you can do to turn the odds in your favor.

Eleven months ago, MJ and I found ourselves looking at a positive pregnancy test. It was our eighth in seven years. Unfortunately, as anyone who has been through multiple pregnancy losses can tell you, that Hallmark moment of blissful celebration disappears. It is replaced with anxiety and VERY reserved optimism.

We found out just before our ninth wedding anniversary, so I decided to change things up a bit. I booked a hotel room in Saratoga, NY, bought tickets to one of our favorite bands (Hair of the Dog), and asked a couple of our best friends if they wanted to come celebrate with us. And it was great. We went out to dinner, told them the good news, and enjoyed a night of uninterrupted sleep sans children before the concert on Saturday night.

Then, a few hours before the show, I had an idea.

I jumped online and snagged the email address for the band. I knew it was a longshot, but I fired off an email to Rick, the band’s lead singer, and told him about our situation. I requested my favorite song and the one I sang to my wife’s belly when we lost our Alexandra at 16 weeks, and I asked that the band dedicate it to MJ. To my wife, the strongest person I know and the only woman I’ve ever loved this much.

Amazingly, Rick and the band got my email in time and came through for us. They called us out by name, said they were moved by our story, and dedicated the song to us right then and there. It was pretty unbelievable.

“We’re all safe and warm here my friends
The hard days are gone they won’t come again
So raise up your voices and give us a song
All of the hard days are gone”

The belly of a dive bar might be the furthest thing from a church sanctuary at first blush, but perhaps it’s not so different than most people think.

MJ and I surrounded ourselves with good friends and positivity, and we felt that embrace through song. Not just any song, but a song that bridges our past turmoil and reluctant goodbyes with hope for the future. Our sacrament may have involved shots and we traded godliness for Guinness, but the booze-soaked confines of the Parting Glass pub gave us a barroom blessing neither of us will soon forget.

And here we are, 11 months later, with a healthy baby boy in Tommy. Is a song dedication from an Eastern NY Irish band in a wonderfully old pub the reason? Probably not. Just like it’s extraordinarily unlikely it was “God’s will” we avoided a sixth loss.

But in that respect, I gained an understanding of why people voluntarily give themselves up to the thought of a higher power or larger force.

It’s comforting in a way to believe someone can help you, rather than being the random recipient of horrible luck over and over again. It’s why I still have a lucky Patriots jersey and stand in the same place in my parents’ house during big games. It has no impact on the outcome, but it makes me feel better. And sometimes that’s enough.

“All of the hard days are gone
It’s all beer and whiskey and songs from now on
Laugh at the darkness and dance until dawn
All of the hard days are gone”

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9 Netflix Originals That Help Parents Escape

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I watched Netflix before I became a father of three, but now that I have multiple kids its streaming service has become a vital part of my life. Yes, that’s right. Netflix is a vital part of my life. And if that seems sad or weird to you, I don’t care. Why?

Because Netflix is my escape.

As a parent, I need some time alone every once in a while. I can only watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Paw Patrol and Teen Titans Go so many times before I crack. That’s why late at night, when everyone else is in bed, I get my Netflix time. Time to watch something that isn’t a cartoon and is actually aimed at adults. And it is glorious.

So without further delay, here are my adult show suggestions to help parents escape the monotony of life with kids.

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9. Sense8
It takes a little while to get into the groove and it’s really weird, but if you hang in there you’ll be rewarded with a great cast, solid storytelling, and some scenes that are as beautiful as they are truly disturbing. If you’re a little bit on the weird side, this one is for you.

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8. Scrotal Recall
If I just told you this is about a guy who finds out he has a sexually transmitted disease and has to tell all of his past sexual conquests, you’d probably scroll on by. But if you love British humor, lots of jokes about sex, and you want to feel like you’re in your 20s again, this is the show for you. It’s a comedy, but it’s got a surprising amount of soul.

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7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
When you just need to laugh uncontrollably and lose yourself in one-liners and absolutely hilarious antics, this is the show for you. But like Scrotal Recall, don’t be surprised if you genuinely end up loving Kimmy and rooting for her at all times. Oh, and TITUS ANDRONICUS!!!

Bloodline

6. Bloodline
This drama has a little bit of everything and is a total slow burn. Family drama, murder, mystery, and Linda Cardellini looking absolutely gorgeous. Is the good guy really bad? Is the bad guy really good? And all the while you’re just thankful you’ve found a family that’s even crazier than your own.

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5. Master of None
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Aziz Ansari’s stand-up. However, this show starring him is really, really good. It’s funny but it’s genuine (and even gets into some big issues like gender inequality), and the writing and dialogue is quick-witted and punchy, which I like. Basically I feel like I would hang out with all of these people and Ansari gets himself into the funniest and most awkward situations. You’ll really enjoy this one and you’ll burn through Season 1 before you can blink.

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4. House of Cards
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood is just tremendous. You love him, you hate him. You admire him, you revile him. You’re rooting against him, then you kind of want him to win. And Robin Wright as his wife is downright insidious, yet completely captivating. I love politics and this is the over-the-top political drama to end all over-the-top political dramas.

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3. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Krysten Ritter is gritty, gutso, and plays the flawed hero to perfection. I won’t lie, this can be tough to watch in that it deals with abuse and sexual assault and some pretty graphic fight and death scenes. But it’s fantastic to see a female superhero and even better to see one that isn’t all princessified (yes, I made that word up) who has real problems and internal struggles.

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2. Orange is the New Black
Piper, Taystee, Crazy Eyes, Red, Nicky, Pennsatucky — if you don’t know these names you need to get on the ball and join the party, because this is one of the best shows on TV. The cast is an absolute blockbuster and the writing is great. It’s funny but serious, depressing yet completely optimistic for a show set in prison. With a cast this size you’d think some characters would get lost in the wash, but that’s not really the case. Each of them gets a turn in the spotlight and is compelling.

Daredevil

1. Marvel’s Daredevil
This is my favorite among the Netflix Originals family. This series is superbly acted, the storylines are terrific, and the fight scenes are simply out of this world. Seriously, they’re realistic and  tough, and they perfectly capture the grittiness that is Matt Murdock. And as a dad, I especially like the constant flashbacks to his father and the relationship there between a single dad and his son. Do yourself a favor and lose yourself in this show, you won’t be sorry.

I’m conducting a giveaway and you can win 6 months of free Netflix. So leave a comment here by the end of today telling me which show is your favorite escape, and I’ll pick a winner to receive complimentary Netflix streaming for half a year!

StreamTeamBadgeI was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an a smart TV. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

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When Dad Doesn’t Fit In

photo credit: Rest in Piece via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rest in Piece via photopin (license)

The irony is rich.

When I accepted a new job as a director of a PR agency in Boston a couple of months ago, I was worried about a lot of things. Could I do the work? Would I fit in with the people there? Will the learning curve be too steep? Will I be able to hack it in the city? As it turns out, those fears were unwarranted. I can do the work, I love the people, I’m contributing as I learn, and I’ve come to really enjoy the city. I’m out of the creative rut I was in at IBM, I’m back with a smaller company which is more my style, and I get to do something different just about every single day. It’s fantastic.

The problem I have isn’t at work, it’s at home.

I used to work from home three days a week, which meant I saw my kids all the time. I was still connected if not always available. I could do things like put my son on the bus and volunteer in his classroom every Friday. I was home for dinner almost every night. I was plugged in.

Now I commute into Boston five days a week. I’m out the door by 6:30 am and I don’t get home for another 12 hours. Sometimes the kids are awake when I leave, sometimes they aren’t, and I get home half an hour before Sam goes to bed. I miss every dinner. I have just enough time to scarf down some food, put Sam to bed, ask Will how his day was, put Will to bed, and gaze at Tommy as he drifts off to sleep.

Occasionally my wife and I even say hello to one another before falling into bed exhausted.

That means MJ is basically a single mom for 12 hours a day, Monday through Friday. She handles everything at home because I’m not there, and she does it well. I married a fiercely independent woman, and even before I started my job she was preparing herself for when I was gone. That means developing routines predicated on being a one-woman show, maximizing individual effectiveness, and strategically adapting to life as a solo, on-the-go mom.

I was prepared for all of that. What I wasn’t ready for was what happens when I am finally there.

MJ scrambles to get by with three kids in tow on a daily basis and she’s developed certain routines. But when I’m home, my strategies are a little different. We’ve always differed in our approaches to just about everything, but now that she has the bulk of the parenting responsibilities during the week, it’s all her way. Needless to say, the weekends are full of clashes.

She and the kids are used to one thing, I’m bringing something else to the table. Neither of us is right or wrong, it’s just a matter of familiarity. Being unfamiliar with their regimen, I feel like I’m gumming up the works. Mainly because my oldest has no qualms telling me “you’re doing it wrong, dad” when I’m upending their routines.

I feel a little bit like an outsider or a fish out of water. I watch my family operate — accustomed to life without me during the week — and I get a little sad. I feel like I don’t fit in, and worse than that, I feel like a hindrance. I’m unnecessary drag on their sailboat as I struggle to figure out what my crew is doing.

MJ would never say this and she denies it, but I’m confident I see it at times. I don’t blame her, she’s doing what she has to do to get by on a daily basis. But still, I feel so — removed.

I used to eyeball Will’s homework and work with him on his spelling every morning over breakfast. I used to be the go-to person for his teacher and I was a familiar face in the classroom thanks to volunteering. Working at home allowed me to see Sam grow up and become awesome on a near daily basis, as I was the first to hear new words and watch him meet milestones. I was still working at home so I couldn’t always play, but I could take five minutes and snuggle with him. And I could discuss things with my wife and give her a hand when necessary.

Now? I’m a ship passing my family in the night. Sam sings the alphabet and counts to 15, and I didn’t know right away. A girl has a crush on Will at school, and I found out days later because it had already been discussed. And Tommy seems to age 6 months every time I come home from work. I try to plug back in on weekends between emails and sponsored blog posts for my second job, but I never feel like I’m on the same page. Nothing feels like it fits anymore, and sometimes I wonder if all my kids will remember of me is the guy who left when it was dark and got home when it was darker.

Kids don’t care that the lights need to be kept on, rent needs to be paid, and down payments need to be saved for a house. Stay-at-home parents are amazing and keep the world turning, but working parents are forced to give up life’s most precious commodity — time. We worry every single day our contributions — while completely necessary — aren’t enough. We worry we’re more of a hindrance than a help, and an annoyance patiently endured until Monday morning when things get back to normal.

This tightrope we walk is so perilous, not because of the fall, but because success isn’t even guaranteed should we make it across.

It’s time to find my fit and focus on quality time versus quantity. Oh, and single parents — I have no freaking idea how you do it!

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Make No Mistake, This is a War on Women

war on women

In a war, people are willing to kill over differences in ideology. People are under attack. In a war, there are casualties. That’s why, by any definition, the attack on Planned Parenthood represents another chapter in an ongoing war on women.

Imagine the idea of strangers publicly shaming you for a medical decision that has nothing to do with them. Think about being emotionally tortured by folks who fancy themselves “godly,” calling you a murderer and relegating you to Hell simply because you’re on your way to see your doctor. Then consider what it feels like to watch the news – to see one of those angry men shooting up a doctor’s office just like yours – and watch all of your worst fears actually materialize in front of your eyes.

Imagine knowing all of your fears are justified, because if it can happen there it can also happen to you.

Hate Breeds Fear

If I had to pick one overriding and common emotion on the faces of the women I saw in an abortion clinic five years ago, it would be fear. I was there to support my wife for a medically necessary abortion while trying for our second child, but most of the half dozen women in the waiting room were by themselves. Some looked like teenagers, some older professionals. Their backgrounds may have varied, but we all had one thing in common – having just run the gauntlet of religious “pro life” protesters outside the building.

After my wife went in for surgery, I confronted the vile excuses for human beings who screamed at us with my cell phone camera rolling, and took them to task for insulting strangers without having one solitary detail as to their individual circumstances. That video ultimately went viral, bringing me unanticipated notoriety – and a slew of anti-choice, hate-fueled fundamentalists, who did everything from wish death upon me and my wife to calling me a complete coward.

The latter insult was mainly because the two people I confronted for massacring my wife emotionally on the hardest day of her life, were older women. By their reasoning, I only had the “balls” to approach these women because they didn’t pose a threat.

But they were wrong. I was scared.

I knew I was dealing with religious zealots. I knew some who identify as members of that group have killed people in their hypocritical quest to “protect life.” Furthermore, that clinic is in Brookline, Massachusetts, the same town where John Salvi killed doctors who performed abortions years before.

So yes, I was scared. Scared because I have no idea what these people are capable of on any given day. All I knew was they have no qualms about calling strangers murderers, even though they have no idea if the women they’re screaming at are going for an abortion or not. I knew that act, in and of itself, displays a kind of mental instability and lack of decency I find to be dangerous. I also knew these women were not alone, and there were others just down the street. Approaching them in person and disagreeing with them increased the risks of exacerbating an already volatile situation and upping the probability for injury.

And that’s when I realized I was getting a tiny taste of what many women go through repeatedly. It is disgusting that the women who get reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood must feel absolutely petrified at every turn. It is sick that women can’t make private medical decisions between them and their doctors without feeling threatened. And when unstable nutcases like Robert Lewis Dear believe the ridiculous lies about doctored Planned Parenthood videos and take it upon themselves to shoot up a clinic, that fear grows exponentially.

Make no mistake, when your life is in danger because you’re picking up your birth control pills or getting a perfectly legal medical procedure, it is not hyperbole to call it a war on women.

This is how the fringe chips away at bodily autonomy for women and the law of the land that is Roe v Wade. Put obstacles and restrictions in place, close down as many clinics as possible so the financially challenged can’t afford to get there, shame them indiscriminately in the streets. And if that isn’t enough, grab your guns and let the bodies hit the floor. After all, in their sick minds, a few dead Planned Parenthood supporters is nothing compared to the carnage that is millions of unborn babies. Don’t believe me, see for yourself:

Obviously the most tragic part of the Planned Parenthood shootings is the three lives lost under the misguided notion of “no more baby parts.” But there are going to be other consequences as well.

More women who rely on Planned Parenthood for care are going to be frightened, which means fewer will go there to receive the reproductive health care they need. Forget abortions for a second, that means fewer women getting access to birth control. And when fewer women are on birth control, you have more unintended pregnancies. And guess what happens with more unintended pregnancies? That’s right, more abortions. Yet the religious zealots are fully incapable of recognizing the flaws in their hate-filled, disgusting plan.

We talk often of terrorism and closing our borders to war torn refugees seeking asylum. But even if we build the oft discussed walls, it appears the terrorists are already on the inside.

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Netflix Helps Parents with the Bedtime Wars

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Sam is two. Two-year-olds don’t like to be told what to do. And they especially don’t like being told to take a nap or go to bed.

Every parent has war stories to tell involving bedtime, and I’m no exception. When they’re really young and not quite fully verbal, they just cry a lot. But now that Sam has found his voice, he can communicate his objections more clearly. Which is to say, he is already turning into a master manipulator who tries to weasel “just five more minutes” every. single. night.

And I know I’m not alone, as this infographic from Netflix proves. Although they haven’t officially learned to network, kids seem to inherently know from birth to team up with other kids and cause their parents similar headaches. It’s uncanny.

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But seriously, you should hear some of the things Sam says to avoid going to bed.

“Dada, no time yet.” (as if he can tell time)
“Dada, I go potty.” (this is toddler speak for “I’m going to sit on the toilet, do nothing, laugh at you, and then piss all over you, the bathroom, and everywhere but in the toilet)
“Dada, I need to see my friends at the zoo.” (yes, he calls the animals at the zoo his friends, which is pretty cute, I admit)
“Dada, I’m scared of T-Rex in my room.” (despite dinosaurs being long gone for millions of years, this excuse will seemingly never be extinct)
“Dada, I finish watching TV.”

That last one is my biggest weakness, mainly because I’m a TV fanatic and I can respect wanting to finish watching something once you’ve started. The only problem is most shows are at least half an hour long, so if I let him stay up for the end of the program I’m extending his bedtime by quite a bit. And he knows it.

That’s why Netflix has felt my pain and come up with a solution in the form of 5 Minute Favorites from Dinotrux.

So here’s how it works. I tell my overconfident master negotiator he can watch one more TV show before bed. He’s happy because he thinks he’s outsmarted me again and gotten his way, but little does he know he’s watching a 5-minute-long condensed version of the new hit show, and in 300 seconds he’s off to bed after having watched as entire show. Just like I promised.

Is it a little dodgy? Yes. Does it allow me to get off on a technicality? Definitely. But who cares? Welcome to parenting. Your kid gets five more minutes, quality TV programming, and you finally get to feel smarter than a toddler. It’s a win-win. Except if you’re the kid, but screw that noise.

Bedtime battles are a matter of survival, and winning is crucial to maintain sanity. Netflix already does so much in the binge-watching department to keep me sane, and now they’re helping me with kid hacks. Thank you for helping me trick and bamboozle my child, Netflix. You clearly know what’s important and what parents need, and I salute you for it.

StreamTeamBadgeI was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an a smart TV. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

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