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Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Jack’s blue “snowman blanket” from Target has been his main blanket since he was born, but now it has earned a regular spot in his daily toy rotation.
It’s not so much of a security blanket, since we won’t let him leave the house with it unless he’s sleeping somewhere else that night.
Instead, it appears to be a fun toy that doubles as a sleeping aid. As a toy, Jack can carry it around for the purpose of being able to play Peek-a-Boo with us at any given moment… repeatedly.
And should he wear himself out in the process, which tends to eventually happen around nap time, he likes to abruptly fall down on the blanket and pretend to sleep.
Granted, Jack won’t actually fall asleep on it. He is simply communicating to me that he is ready for me to take him upstairs to put him in his crib. That leads to a 10 minute “cry it out” session before he’s out cold for a predictable 40 minutes.
It’s a curious thing that he sleeps a solid two hours each weekday at daycare, but how we’re lucky to get two 40 minute naps out of him during the daytime on weekends.
Yesterday was the exception. He slept for 2 hours and 49 minutes; for no particular reason.
We thought we were being sneaky trying to get away with watching an episode of Lost while he napped (it was the one where Hurley finds the VW bus).
But we made it all the way through it, then started the next one, then my wife fell asleep for an hour while I started watching a documentary on Netflix about the life of people who have made a living by being extras in movies, called Strictly Background.
Nearly three hours. I called it a “grace nap.”
It’s a gesture of grace for us the parents; giving us an unexpected break from the typical routine of his. It’s our son giving us the opportunity to be bored; a rare privilege for parents of a young child.
Start noticing on Facebook, about once a week, a status update from a fellow parent joyously proclaiming that their kid slept for a period of time longer than expected. The grace nap is pretty much a big deal.
At least for me, the fact that my son carries around his blanket like Linus from Peanuts is more than just cute; it’s a beacon of hope.
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012
For the past couple of years now, I have consistently published my own recaps of The Bachelor, drawing in tens of thousands of views on my personal blog site, NickShell.com.
It made me laugh that I could make 300 people a day stumble upon my site when they Googled “Is Ali Fedotowsky Jewish?” Not only blogging about the show, but watching it every Monday night with my wife, had become a fun tradition.
This week, the new Bachelor season premiered featuring Ben Flajnik, the Slovak-Italian-German-English (but not Jewish) winemaker from California.
But the magic just wasn’t there for me anymore. Unlike previous seasons, it felt like the main focus was just on how ridiculous (and pathetic) the contestants could appear to be. It was like the show had merged with its sleazy cousin, Bachelor Pad, and all those trashy reality dating shows on VH1.
I guess I’m becoming more morally convicted about contributing to the exploitation of other people; even if they don’t realize or don’t care that the world is laughing at them, not with them.
A switch has flipped in my head. Is it because The Bachelor has (just now?) finally jumped the shark?
Not actually. My sudden disgust in The Bachelor got me thinking deeper. I realized that the underlying issue here is that I’m starved for redeeming value, not only in entertainment, but in real life.
I started thinking about the TV shows my wife and I have plowed through this past year on Netlflix. (We don’t have cable. We watched this week’s Bachelor episode online.)
They included Big Love, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. In my opinion, all three are very well-written, well-directed, fresh, original, and premium quality entertainment. But just yesterday I realized something they all three have in common:
The protagonist cheats on his wife, she cheats on him, or they cheat on each other.
It made me start thinking about all the good songs we love to sing along to which are about someone getting cheated on. Yeah, good songs like “White Liar” by Miranda Lambert or “You Lie” by The Band Perry. In every genre of music, it’s common for enjoyable songs to be about infidelity.
I may sound like a Republican grandma from the Eighties, but I’m really tired of all this negativity in pop culture; especially when it comes to the way marriage is portrayed.
The truth is, I’m struggling right now to think of a good modern TV series that features a happily married couple who aren’t constantly (even though comically) cutting each other down. I miss Jason and Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains.
Here on The Dadabase, I have written several times about how dads are negatively portrayed on TV. But I failed to focus also on how negatively marriage is portrayed, as well. That’s just as big of a deal.
I miss the cheesy “musical moral moments” at the end of Miller-Boyett sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, and Perfect Strangers where I was always fed a bite-size life lesson, teaching me to care more about others than myself.
Starting now, I am going to be deliberately seeking out entertainment (and real-life ventures) that have a high redeeming quality.
As part of her Christmas present to me, my wife agreed to watch the first season of Lost with me. She’s never seen it, but I’ve seen every episode.
Lost is the kind of thing I mean when I say “redeeming quality.” I love to see the moral struggles of the characters as they try to forgive others and themselves for the wrongs they have committed in their lives. I love that they ultimately become accountable for their actions.
I love to see a story actually go somewhere. I love to see people redeemed, not exploited.
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Big Love, Breaking Bad, Full House, Jewish, LOST, Mad Men, redeeming value, sitcoms, The Bachelor | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Nostalgia, The Dadabase
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
“Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.” -Wikipedia’s definition of “purgatory”
I’ve never actually met anyone who truly believes in purgatory, yet I feel that the general population is familiar with the idea of it.
On the final episode of Lost, the people from the Island who had ultimately lived their lives for the goodwill of others instead of greed and selfishness, reunited and reminisced in purgatory before entering Heaven together.
For those who are not Lost fanatics but like the band Coldplay, in their song “42,” some of the most memorable lyrics include the refrain, “You thought you might be a ghost; you didn’t get to Heaven but you made it close.”
Most of us don’t believe in the actual place, but for me at least, there is something pretty fascinating about the concept. I think it’s so easy in this life, in this culture, in this country, to feel like we are lost, or at least that we don’t belong wherever “here” is. We want to think that we deserve to transcend this lowly and boring situation, asking the question:
“What am I supposed to learn from this? Why am I here?”
My life has been filled with stretches like that. Even right now, my wife and I are having to adjust back to the busyness of our full-time jobs in Nashville, this time with a kid; which is a completely new balancing act for us. We are having to figure out and work out our new lifestyles and schedules, making time not only for the three of us, but for the two of us, as well.
It’s a purification process that is not easy; but it is necessary. We can see how natural it can be to let your kid consume your leftover energy and thoughts, slacking on making conscious efforts to keep the marriage relationship fresh and engaging. But we don’t want our lives to end up like Everybody Loves Raymond.
Ultimately, we are being forced to mature our marriage relationship. This “forced maturity” is sort of the whole point of purgatory. You suffer until you overcome.
Not that I am constantly immature or naive, or maybe I am (?), but I am always needing to grow in a way that I never could have without entering my newest purgatory.
But really, the more I think of the literary device we know as purgatory, the more it just seems like a straight forward yet abstract way to describe life itself; the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, we are made ready for Heaven, at best.
We may figuratively compare our lives to hell at times, but really, hell is an eternal end; it’s never-ending loneliness and destruction. Purgatory is temporary.
I don’t mind viewing life as purgatory. Until I pass on in to the afterlife, I will always have much more growing up to do, more necessary suffering, and one more level of maturity to reach- even if I live to be 80.
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afterlife, Coldplay, culture, eternity, finance, God, Heaven, hell, LOST, meaning of life, purgatory, religion | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality
Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Am I a gifted writer? I don’t really think so. My blogging abilities do not necessarily mean that I am halfway decent at crafting a professional, structured, magazine quality article.
Instead, I see myself as a modern day philosopher who happens to be an engaging storyteller. In other words, if I’m good at anything when it comes to writing, it’s knowing how to be a captivating narrator.
Fortunately for me, I’m never short on material. I’m a dad; therefore, something new and exciting (and exhausting!) is always going on in my life. I laugh at the foreign concept of “writer’s block.” My journal is full of blog titles just waiting to be written. My only threat is battling “time block.”
I would say my love for narrating life has something to do with the second best TV show ever, The Wonder Years. (The best show ever is Lost.) I sort of grew up thinking that I was Kevin Arnold. As a kid, I looked like him and had the same mannerisms as him. Even today, there’s still a strong resemblance. I easily related to his sentimental and awkward life stories. And man, the soundtrack- Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Nick Drake…
But the strongest connection I always felt to the show was actually the narration, as performed by Daniel Stern. (Yes, Marv the Burglar from the movie Home Alone.)
The narration of each episode of The Wonder Years perfectly built on the idea yearning for the past. Unsurprisingly, the word “nostalgia” loosely translates from a Swiss word meaning “homesickness.” Another favorite TV show of mine that contains flawless narration is Scrubs, as done by Zach Braff, playing the character of J.D. Dorian.
In both of these sitcoms, there was always some understated lesson to be learned from life, as it pertained to the particular story being told. That is the exact format I keep in mind with every Dadabase post: Every story is ultimately summed up by some sort of paradox, revelation, or moral.
Since high school, I have been known as a guy who is “stuck in the past.” I guess it’s a necessary trait for me so that I can be engaging in my writing; it helps create a universal sense of familiarity.
Sure, I’m stuck in the past. But I’m forced to live in the present. And the present instantly becomes the past. So it all works out.
Right now, the most complicated phrase that my son, Jack, can regularly speak is “to-gaht, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat, to-ghat…”. Therefore, I must do his talking for him, by telling his stories through my “grown up” perspective.
I am Jack’s life witness and adult voice.
I am Jack’s nostalgic narrator.
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Fight Club, journaling, LOST, narrating, narration, Nick Drake, Nostalgia, story telling, Swiss, The Wonder Years, writer's block | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Growing Up, Must Read, Nostalgia, Storytelling, The Dadabase, Writing
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
As a dad, I have fears. Something I have learned in life is that when I say my fears out loud (or “type them out loud”), I can get a better handle on them, putting them into their proper perspective. It’s my way of controlling my fears instead of them controlling me.
I’ve written before here on The Dadabase about my fear of not being able to financially provide for my family, as well as my fear of being responsible for my son being seriously injured or killed. But today, instead of focusing on a financial or physical issue, my featured fear is a psychological one: It’s my fear that I will somehow “mess up” my son.
I get it. No parent is perfect or has this whole parenting thing all figured out, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I know; part of what helps us mature and have realistic expectations in life is when we are forced to be strong. And of course, any parent who would be sensitive enough to worry about somehow messing up their kid is the exact kind of parent who probably won’t mess up their kid. I am aware of all those things.
Still, the longer I am a parent, the more I realize my potential to really prohibit or injure my son’s full potential in life. Sometimes it just starts to really sink in that I’ve brought a human life into existence and that my decisions greatly effect how he turns out. And he has a soul, too. So it’s not just an earthly issue, but an eternal one, as well.
God evidently believes in my capabilities more than I do.
It was one thing when I was a single guy with no peripherals. But now, every tiny and humongous choice I make can ultimately mold my son into the person he will become.
How did I become qualified to be so powerful and influential in both my son and my wife’s life? Like Jack Shephard on Lost, I often feel like I am a reluctant leader who realizes the seriousness of the role I must play, as others depend on me to do so. I am so not qualified for this job. So undeserving.
Instead of falling through the chaotic vacuum of life unconnected to anyone who needs my care, my love, my guidance, and my providence, in reality, I hold the hand of a beautiful woman and a magical son who depend on me.
They don’t care about my imperfections. They don’t care about how little money I make. They don’t care about the fact that I am lucky to just be one step ahead of the game of life each day, if that.
As a man, I understand the importance of not dwelling on these fears. I was wired to be strong. I was wired to say, “Here’s what we’re going to do…” when a new problem arises, then I make sure that the plan gets carried out. I can’t worry about the very real fact that I opened up the most cosmic can of worms when I became a husband and father.
My job is to create an atmosphere of confidence, strength, hope, and faith, despite the clusterfog that often surrounds my family of three. And regardless how I may feel about my lack of qualifications or merit, the fact that I stay intact and refuse to ever think about giving up on them is perhaps one of the greatest signs that I do indeed have what it takes.
Wow. I do feel better now.
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daddy blog, family, fatherhood, fear, God, LOST, money, parenting | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Spirituality, Story Bucket, Storytelling