Despite leaving TV news behind me some months back, I made a brief return to television recently.
I had the absolute pleasure recently of appearing on the mid-morning program, “Mass Appeal” to talk about some of the lessons learned during my first year of fatherhood.
Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow me to embed the video from their site, so I’ll provide you with a direct link instead, should you want to check out the on-air clip:
The experience was nothing short of a delight. First, hosts Ashley and Seth were incredibly nice, welcoming, and utterly professional. They made every guest there that day feel right at home and, this is the thing that really does it, they did so not only pleasantly, but so genuinely as well.
Why is this such a big deal, you may ask? Because, believe me, in the world of television, finding personalities that are genuine and not put on for either the audience or guests in the building can be a rare thing sometimes. These guys were the real deal as were their wonderful crew behind the scenes. I couldn’t believe how many people, resources, and building space was dedicated to this one show. You could see the commitment and it was awesome.
Secondly, my appearance on the show meant a visit to Western Massachusetts, one of my favorite places.
Other guests that day included a chef who owned a food cart and was baking some pie for the holidays, Boy Scouts about the annual popcorn drive, a man who showed how to make inexpensive table settings from something as simple as a necktie, and female veterans who were getting makeovers. Quite an eclectic mix, but boy, what a fun show.
I’ve included a few photos from the morning, as well as the video, if you care to watch. I think it went pretty well, and I was over the moon that they’d like to have me back at some point.
It was a weekend in late October when the battle began – a battle whose first round would go to a device so simple in its design, yet so infuriating. Eventually, I would claim victory, but the road to getting there would be paved with anger and expletives.
Yes it was the epic battle of me vs. the installation of the toilet paper dispenser in our bathroom – a battle for the ages.
There’s many places our tale could begin – when we received the brushed nickel toilet paper holder off our wedding registry three years ago, intent that we were going to get that bathroom renovation done by the end of the year.
Or it could be last Christmas, when we ACTUALLY began the bathroom renovation – covering up what was a tiled wall from the 50s or 60s, white-washing woodwork that was once beautiful and painted by a previous homeowner with a color that can only be described as “poop-brown” as well as pulling out a pedestal sink we once thought would be the perfect fit only to find it utterly impractical. This project began almost a year ago, and here we are, little by little, still putting things together.
We weren’t exactly the speediest when it came to home renovations back when we were just a couple. Now that we have a toddler running around, oh boy, is that repair time few and far between. It started last Christmas, when we started priming all that poop-brown painted woodwork. It was so dark that it took roughly 10 coats of primer and paint to get it covered with white – a process that was done mostly during the little guy’s naps. Then came covering up the flooring, then the tiled walls, a new sink, the quarter-round, and now, the toilet paper holder.
My father-in-law, a plumber by trade but knowledgeable about many a home repair situation, warned me that getting through the now-covered up tiles was going to be a challenge and I didn’t realize how true that was. He told me a nail would work to hammer away at the tile so that I could drill the screws through the tile and into the wall.
Several nails met their sad end trying to break through that tile. When I called my father-in-law to admit the defeat he casually told me ‘oh, I meant a hard nail. you can’t use regular nails on that stuff.’ A lesson learned too late. What was this ‘hard nail’ he spoke of? Well, he luckily had one I could borrow to find out. It acted, in a way, like a pointy chisel. I would place it into the spot on the tile and hit it with the hammer to chip a hole away at the tile. After several sweat-inducing attempts, I was ready to drill.
However, it would require more than just the standard household drill we needed. No, no. This needed an industrial-grade drill to get through the tile and walls.
Who knew having toilet paper hanging from the wall was going to cause this much frustration, right?
A lot of expletives flew that evening as I tried to drill the holes, based on the template provided by the manufacturer. This was I think one of the largest sources of frustration, as I had already used their template to drill holes through the walls in a way that could not be covered up at all, and they were slightly off!!!
This incident has, yes, made me incredibly suspicious about using those templates in the future as opposed to judging for myself.
So, holes were drilled and I had no choice. I would have to make sure that when I placed the holder onto the brackets now attached to the wall, that they be sort of, jury-rigged into place and tightened as much as possible to keep them in place as close to the intended target. Oy!
I nailed, I drilled, I sweat, I swore, I closed the door to make sure the little guy wasn’t around, but it got done. Meg says when the toilet paper is on the holder, it’s hard to notice the slant caused by following the template. I’ll always know it’s there, though. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped into the bathroom to look at it and just casually used my finger to tilt the roll of toilet paper over until it looks ‘just right.’
It may have been a small victory (if I can call it that), but the war isn’t over. We still have two glass shelves and some towel hooks that have to go up. If this was any indication, Meg and the little guy may want to go for a drive to avoid the drama that unfolds.
You have no doubt seen somewhere, be it television, newspapers, or the internet, the story of BatKid saving San Francisco-turned Gotham City from the likes of The Riddler and The Penguin this week.
If you haven’t yet heard about it, take a second and Google “BatKid” and read a few stories about it and come back.
No worries. I’ll wait. I’ll even have a cup of tea while you do so.
(((sip of tea. moment to ponder. another sip of tea.)))
Okay, you’re back. Pretty wild stuff, right?
There’s not much I can add to this. Writers, journalists, photographers have covered pretty much every angle of the day. All I want to say is that I can not, for the life of me, think of a comparable time when I’ve seen that many people gather together on a mission of goodwill and making a child feel like a hero. Not only that, but my Facebook newsfeed blew up that day with people sharing links to stories, photos, and just generally being excited that this kid’s wish to be Batman came true. It came true courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and many, many volunteers and supporters. That last word is key though – supporters. You can throw all the money in the world at something and it may not resonate with anyone.
What is it about this young boy, this dream come true to be a hero, that led so many people to take part, stand in the streets in support, or just generally get excited and invested in his heroics that day?
It gives me a little hope for the world. I’m often accused of being much more cynical as I age than I was a decade ago., but something with all of this just struck a chord. Maybe, just maybe, we’re not all the judgmental, polarized, cynical, hopeless lot that so many come off as day in and day out. Could it be that deep down we all want to feel the joy that comes with seeing a five-year old save the day? That inside, we want to have that sense of triumph that was felt that afternoon when young Miles stopped The Riddler and foiled a plot by the Penguin and was then given the key to the city?
I say yes. We do. But don’t let it stop there. Don’t bottle up those feelings now that the event is over and the news stories begin to die down. No, no! It’s like people who only open their hearts at Christmas.
Rip them open, my friends! Find that hope once again, believe in a better world. Why? Because what’s the alternative? Five year old Miles is a hero and gained the support of a city and a nation. Isn’t it time the rest of us started living every day with our hearts open and were heroes as well?
At one point, the Brit talked about how the perception of what success is, is vastly different in America than in some other countries. I found it fascinating. He talked about how here, in America, we say that ‘everyone has the chance to win the race,’ but then said that by the very definition and nature of a race, not everyone CAN win.
There is the adage of wanting to have your cake and eat it too, an adage which our American culture seems to proliferate. ‘You can be a great parent and be a great CEO,’ ‘you can be a great author and be a great family man,’ but the radio hosts were saying that in most cases, that’s just not possible. By putting all of yourself into one thing, you automatically are not putting your all into something else, therefore, neglecting it, even if slightly.
Before the program ended, the question was raised as to just who was determining what success was, asking whose goals it is that we are working toward – ours or the ones that others have created for us? Are we working toward something because we truly want to, or because someone (whether it be individually or culturally) has told us that’s what we need to do.
It’s a bit like I said when I signed off of broadcasting – it’s not about how much money you make, what you do for a living, what religion you are, how many Facebook friends or fans you have. Those are determinations of success that have been created by others, yet pushed onto so many people via a ludicrous culture with misguided priorities.
All this got me thinking about how my own life’s priorities have changed over the years.
When I was 9 years old, I made no bones about telling everyone that I would one day be working as an animator, putting a love of drawing to work every day.
Years later, in college and for some time after, I would have said nothing was going to stop me from becoming a successful screenwriter and filmmaker. However, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to pack up my life and take that leap away from my loved ones.
Time went on. I turned my writing background to journalism. I wasn’t going to be Spielberg or Coppola, but Clark Kent? Sure, I could do that. I’d be the best damn journalist I could.
In time, I got married and we had our son. Eventually, I would leave the journalism world, but it didn’t make me any less of a writer.
I still write. I write this blog. I write the comic book Holidaze. I’m working on some possible small film projects. I’ve always got some other writing project going as well. Heck, I now get paid to be a writer for the institution I work for. Yes, I get to say I’m a paid writer now and that is one of the coolest things in the world to me.
I’m sure the 21 year old, overconfident me would have balked, saying it was a film career or bust. The me in my late 20s would have wondered where a plethora of novels were. The 9 year old me would have wondered why I wasn’t animating ducks for Disney.
However, that 9 year old me, 21 year old me, heck, even the 27 year old me, didn’t have a family, didn’t have a wife and a son, and family members he wanted them by as he grows up.
The younger me didn’t realize how having this little man in my life would change my goals in life as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t reach for your goals. Please, for the love of all on this earth, go for it! Have dreams! Live them!
Just make sure they are YOUR dreams and YOUR goals that you’re working towards. And understand that, yes, those goals and those dreams may change. Sure, for some of you, they may be the same goals from when you were 4 to 24 to 34 to the rest of your life.
Or they may not.
They may change as you change. That doesn’t make you any less of a person, that doesn’t mean you ‘gave up,’ and that doesn’t make you a ‘loser.’ Believe me, I’ve gone through many of those feelings before coming to the realizations I have.
What I’m saying is, I can still write, I can still pursue projects, but they no longer are the end goal or the success that I look for. I do them because I enjoy them. Years ago, success may have been to make a living off of being a screenwriter, a comic book writer, an author or a filmmaker.
Today, success for me is about being around for that little guy when he needs me, when he wants a storyteller, a helping hand, or just someone to play around with or hug. Being a good father, being a present father, giving my all to that, and to him – that’s what a successful life for me will be.
This summer, we were visiting friends in Massachusetts (for a baby shower of their own little guy) and were just a stone’s throw away from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. With some careful planning (and some early departure time from home) we made it with plenty of time to spare and before the baby shower, got a chance to check out not only the amazing art of Eric Carle, but the museum’s limited exhibit of the art of Mo Willems.
Aside from the stunning visuals of these great authors and illustrators, the museum kept the fun factor going with scavenger hunts. In the case of Eric Carle, you’re given a list of items (a gorilla, perhaps, or an umbrella) that you check off along the way as you take in all the beautiful work around you. For the Mo Willems exhibit, it was a hunt for different color variations of The Pigeon, peeking out and around from art on the walls.
What also struck me was just how truly wonderful it is that this is recognized for the fine art it is. There’s that age old question, ‘but is it art?’ Yes. Yes, it is.
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside of the actual exhibition halls, but we did get the chance to take some nice photos in the main hallway and of course, with our buddy, The Pigeon.
It was really phenomenal to see the evolution of pages from sketches to line drawings, to full-color pages as that we’re used to for characters like Elephant, Piggie and Pigeon, and even at just one year old, our little guy immediately recognized his favorite characters and was pointing and making noises to bring out attention to ones he liked.
Children’s Book Art is fascinating. A good story draws us in, but lets face it, whether we are a child or an adult, it is the art that grabs our attention in the first place to make us want to peer open that cover and see what adventure awaits us inside.
To see this recognized as an art form with its own museum created a truly happy feeling inside me, as if this was some type of tangible proof that there are many folks out there who feel the same way, and felt children’s books and their art deserved respect and regard.
It was a wonderful time, and we of course, left the museum gift shop with a new addition to our Elephant and Piggie Collection – “I Am Invited to a Party!”