What do Gardens, Playhouses, Cancer, Ellen DeGeneres, Iliza Shlesinger and Pinterest all have in common?

By the Power of Pinterest!!!! I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!

So this physical transformation of my back yard mirrors how my outlook on life has changed in the last few months and for anyone interested, here is the story of how my friends and family, Ellen, Iliza and Pinterest helped me do it (as a warning, this was written in ramble mode):

To be blunt, 2014 sucked for me. My job went to hell. I lost all my money plus money I didn’t have in a bad business investment. We lost our apartment and ended up having to live in the spare bedroom of a friend’s house, again. My insurance company cancelled our policy because I couldn’t make the payments. Then to add insult to injury, I noticed a couple odd patches on my skin and went to see a doctor and ended up getting a biopsy confirming I had skin cancer. But hey, the good news was that for $15,000 (which was $35,000 more than what I had) they’d cut it out. Yay?

I didn’t tell my wife, which in retrospect was not smart. And then because I never went back, a letter soon arrived from the doctor saying in typical American medical pessimism “hey do you realize you could die if you don’t get this treated?” and of course my wife saw the envelope and opened it before I got home. To make a long story short: yes, I should’ve told her everything earlier.

The Back Yard Somewhat Resembled my Life: Depressing

At the start of all this, the back yard somewhat resembled my outlook on life: Ugly and depressing

I was also fast approaching turning the big 40 years old and I had once promised my younger self that if I hadn’t sold a script, a novel or made a feature film by the time I was 40 I would throw in the towel trying to be a writer/director on feature films. So I was feeling pretty miserable overall coming into 2015 and barrelling down towards my 40th birthday.

Not too sexy looking right?

Not too sexy looking right?

Better?

Better?

And then two funny things (people rather) happened: Ellen Degeneres and Iliza Shlesinger. How you ask? Read on, read on! (me shouting encouragement for the one or two people who’ve made it this far!)

I was feeling pretty depressed on a daily basis. I was working again, but I wasn’t particularly happy because I seemed to keep getting so close to getting a film made only to have it fall through time and again. I was still working 80 hour weeks and then using the 11pm – 3 am hours to work on my writing, which was my escape. Then I’d sleep a few hours, wake up at 7am drive the kids to school and start over again. One day I saw a Facebook clip of Ellen Degeneres which was incredibly uplifting so after finishing my late night writing sessions, I added to my routine watching Ellen for 15-30 minutes most nights. I really enjoyed the positiveness that her show had and it helped me to start putting my problems in their proper perspective.

Do you know how your back feels after carrying 4 tons of wood up a hill? I'll give you a hint: ****ed.

Do you know how your back feels after carrying 4 tons of wood up a hill? I’ll give you a hint: ****ed. And this wasn’t even half of it!

Aside from crying way too many times while watching Ellen to be considered manly, I soon realized something vitally important:

No matter how bad I felt about my life right now, I was living a life that someone else, somewhere in the world right now wished they had. While I stood there bitching about my miniscule problems, I was living someone else’s dream. How self-centered and shallow.  And I kinda snapped out of it.

So I hadn’t managed to get my film script into Alfonso Cuaron’s or Alejandro González Iñárritu’s hands, but I wasn’t strapped to a torture table, in a coma in a hospital, starving in a gutter or worse. Plus I have two beautiful and healthy children, a beautiful, loving and supportive wife, and many, many amazing friends. I’ve also had some great adventures thus far. I had also managed to start getting back on my feet financially again and found a decent, if overpriced (any place in LA is overpriced) place for us to live in. Sure I had a lot of debt but I had a job again. Ok. Not so bad. Living the dream, someone’s dream. In a roundabout way, Ellen’s humor and the guests she talked with had helped me realize how blessed I was and to appreciate what I had. She also mentioned Pinterest occassionally which in my mind was “that picture thing.” Ooooohhh how oblivious I was…

It's going up!

It’s going up!

Slowly, I began to see that when you start to appreciate what you do have and what you have accomplished thus far instead of feeling like a failure, life starts looking better. And when you think a bit more positive, things start to work themselves out. It’s cliche as **** but I was finding it to be true.

The subliminal messages at my birthday party

The subliminal messages at my birthday party

Out of nowhere I found out that a friend of my mother’s happened to work for a dermatologist who took me on as a charity patient and dealt with my skin cancer and has been dealing with it in the repeated visits since for the amounts that I could afford. She also helped me shake the fear, resentment and despair the other doctor had given me.

The girl's playhouse going up

The girl’s playhouse going up

Now despite the overall improvement on my outlook in life, I was still subject to sudden bouts of depression that would come crushing down and which my wife would help me get through, but no BS: it was tough.  Then one night my wife and a friend of hers suggested we watch a comedy. I had heard about Iliza Shlesinger’s Freezing Hot on KROQ that morning and thought why not? In addition to laughing my ass off, I was left with the question: what the hell is Pinterest really? I’d heard Ellen mention it occassionally, but now with the over the topness of Iliza’s routine about it, I had to know.

Oh. My. God. Pinterest = best thing for DIY inspiration ever.

To sidetrack for a moment, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to hit 40 without selling a script, a novel or making my first feature movie. But damned if I was going to go into it depressed. I decided that I wanted to give my kids and my wife something special.

Now we are getting somewhere!

Now we are getting somewhere!

In the ten years that my wife had been together, she’d probably told me a hundred times that she wished that one day she could go to New York. She had also mentioned that she wished we had a place that was outside to exercise and watch the girls play at the same time.

The woman who keeps the light in my life

The woman who keeps the light in my life

And my kids, what they wanted more than anything, was two things actually: a playhouse, and a puppy. A puppy I wasn’t willing to add to the family until they were older, I’m wayyyyy too stressed out to add another kid! But a playground? Something that I could make with my own hands? Oh yes, it was on. And my wife had mentioned it would be cool to have a place outside she could do exercise on. Hee heee heeeee!!! (Insert maniacal laughter here)

The stars in my sky

The stars in my sky

Enter Pinterest which was amazing for helping me visualize and solve how to do it. I wanted to give them a beautiful playhouse and garden which they could enjoy and have adventures in, exercise and enjoy life and remember fondly as they grew older. But this was going to require a lot of planning. I measured everything out. Built a model of it.

I built a scale model with my girls to help me visualize before I built

I built a scale model with my girls to help me visualize before I built (yes I realize this should probably be at the top, but remember: ramble mode)

I asked all my friends and family to give me wood for my birthday, yes actual wood and lumber, sheesh. I asked other friends for leftover lumber on their jobsites. I looked through craigslist. I did whatever I needed to do to get my ducks in a row.

Ugh

Ugh

Then I surprised my wife with a five day trip to New York over a holiday weekend as an early birthday present for her. She had a friend there who I had secretly planned the trip with and I got them the best seats in the house for Wicked on Broadway. She could stay with her friend, and I had lucked into a cheap flight by ordering early and I figured she needed a break from work and the kids. She had earned it a thousand times over.

Not so ugh

Not so ugh

Then once she left, I got busy with it. By the time I got back from dropping her off at the airport, the lumber was waiting for me at the house and I went crazy building things like a madman. And my two little girls helped me all the way, cleaning and painting and general cheerleading. We had a blast.

Quite a change I believe

Quite a change I believe

A deck. A pergola. A playhouse. A garden. I didn’t finish it by the time my wife got back, so I had to send her away again to take another 4 days off to go to her sister’s baby shower up in Sacramento while the girls and I worked away. And…I still didn’t finish it. I learned that trying to build a playground and take care of your kids at the same time can be really stressul but we did have a blast!! I also ran out of money well before finishing, so I had to look for some work I could do on a weekend to be able to buy more materials. So I built a deck for someone else! (and beat the crap out of my back again.)

I didn't have enough money for a lot of the backyard, so I had to take another job on some weekends to be able to buy more wood (yes, no BS, I built a deck for someone else)

I didn’t have enough money for a lot of the backyard, so I had to take another job on some weekends to be able to buy more wood (yes, no BS, I built a deck for someone else)

Built!

Built!

Yah baby!!!

Yah baby!!!

The kids love their new space. My wife loves our backyard. And I feel strangely satisfied. It felt good to build this. It sort of gave me a renewed verve for keeping going. Pursuing my dreams and taking the struggle that comes with that in stride.

I’ll post up a full long form video of this whole experiment in short order, but in the meantime the time-lapse and the photos should help the curious see how I went about building everything. I’ll also put up some how-to on the videos on my other page http://www.darecinema.com.

I want to thank all my wonderful friends and family who contributed to the project by lending me tools, gifting lumber, offering advice and, well, being there for us during these trying times. And most of all to my wife and daughters who give me more happiness than I could’ve ever asked for. Every. Single. Day.

After shots

Here is how it looked before

Here is how it looked before

More after shots

Here is how it looks now

The danger of pinterest obsession

The danger of pinterest obsession

A view from the girls playhouse

A view from the girls playhouse

One last look as to how it was

One last look as to how it was

Our new hangout

Our new hangout

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California’s New Vaccination Bill – What Parents Should Be Focused On

MyGirls (1 of 8)First off, I don’t follow the news much. And that’s a flaw in my character aggravated by working multiple jobs, trying to spend as much time with my family as possible and having a generally low opinion on the quality of mainstream journalism and the inability of many blog sites to be able to separate and state clearly the difference between fact and opinion.

So I was caught by surprise this weekend by a number of irate parents talking about a new California law that will make mandatory vaccination, well, mandatory. Kids who don’t vaccinate will not be allowed to attend public OR private schools.

It’s true that a recent modification to the law will allow for home-schooling which is not really helpful when, in a family like mine, both parents work full time jobs and don’t have other family members who can home-school them.

But this also got amended so that the home schooling option doesn’t have to be all members of the same family. So essentially what’s going to happen if this law goes through is that hundreds of small “private home schools” are going to spring up to cater to like-minded parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children OR WHO WANT TO VACCINATE SELECTIVELY.

After hunting around on the internet for about 30 minutes I was finally able to locate the bill, surprisingly, by going to the opposition’s website: http://www.sb277.org/

You can find the bill here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB277

You don’t have to read the full thing if you don’t want to, but please at least ensure you have read this much of it so we can have a conversation grounded in facts:

—-

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

Section 120325 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

120325.
 In enacting this chapter, but excluding Section 120380, and in enacting Sections 120400, 120405, 120410, and 120415, it is the intent of the Legislature to provide:
(a) A means for the eventual achievement of total immunization of appropriate age groups against the following childhood diseases:
(1) Diphtheria.
(2) Hepatitis B.
(3) Haemophilus influenzae type b.
(4) Measles.
(5) Mumps.
(6) Pertussis (whooping cough).
(7) Poliomyelitis.
(8) Rubella.
(9) Tetanus.
(10) Varicella (chickenpox).
(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
(b) That the persons required to be immunized be allowed to obtain immunizations from whatever medical source they so desire, subject only to the condition that the immunization be performed in accordance with the regulations of the department and that a record of the immunization is made in accordance with the regulations.
(c) Exemptions from immunization for medical reasons.
(d) For the keeping of adequate records of immunization so that health departments, schools, and other institutions, parents or guardians, and the persons immunized will be able to ascertain that a child is fully or only partially immunized, and so that appropriate public agencies will be able to ascertain the immunization needs of groups of children in schools or other institutions.
(e) Incentives to public health authorities to design innovative and creative programs that will promote and achieve full and timely immunization of children.

—-

There is so much noise about this bill it becomes extremely hard to separate fact from fiction and opinion even after dedicated searching on the internet for reliable sources. But after finally reading through dozens and dozens of pages for and against this law and reading through the law several times I’ve made a few of my own conclusions and the reasons why I personally would oppose this bill as it is currently written.

WHAT’S RIGHT ABOUT SB-277, IN A NUTSHELL

Here is the fundamental rightness with SB-277 and the party line everyone pushing the bill continually falls back on: It wants to ensure the healthiest environment possible for our children in the area where they congregate most frequently, our children’s schools.

And you know what? I think that parents who have weighed the pros and cons on the matter and have decided for vaccination, should have the right to put their kids in a school which has compulsorily vaccinated children. If they honestly feel that for the health of their child it’s the way to go, then let them have it.

But not at the cost of rights to parents who don’t want their children vaccinated.

MyGirls (4 of 8)My opinions on it:

It’s a genuinely humane purpose to ensure kids are in the healthiest environment possible in mandatory attendance environments. I support that idea. And it’s really trying to deal with law two very big problems we face as parents:

1. Other parents who bring sick children to school because they can’t or don’t want to solve them staying at home (and I don’t care what their excuse, it’s absolutely unethical), in the hopes that the child won’t be detected as ill.

2. And even when you have parents who would never let their kids go to school sick, most preventable illnesses that our kids get are already very contagious by the time they can be detected visually and properly diagnosed. So it’s often too late to keep them back from school before the damage is done anyways.

But SB-277 comes with a major problem: there is no room in it for true democracy. And that’s a problem when you live in a country founded upon democratic principles.

And I think (opinion) if you were to actually assemble every parent in this nation and ask them the question: “Should every parent be forced to have their child injected with something which is not 100% proven to be safe as a mandatory requirement for that child to receive public education?”, that the majority of parents would vote no, even if the politicians that they elected would vote yes.

But it’s not an easy choice because none of us want a kid who has whooping cough left in school by a parent that couldn’t cope with having their child stay at home.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SB-277, IN A NUTSHELL.

There are two fundamental flaws in SB-277. The first, however, being the most egregious and what MUST change for the law to be a democratic law: SB-277 gives parents and schools no choice on the matter. And that’s not right no matter how you try to phrase it.

The second problem is a couple of little kickers of lines in the law itself:

(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

(e) Incentives to public health authorities to design innovative and creative programs that will promote and achieve full and timely immunization of children.

At the very least schools should be given the right to have a vote with the parents whose children are in attendance to see if they approve children attending who either have not had vaccinations or who have been selectively vaccinated. That way at least there is recourse and like-minded educators and parents can have their children associate and get educated. And parents who don’t want their kids hanging out with kids who haven’t been vaccinated can go to schools that are vaccination mandatory. It’s really that simple.

And other than the complete lack of freedom of choice, it’s that lack of clarity in a law, those gray areas that really scare me. “Any other disease” as voted on by people that 99.9999% of the population don’t know and for sure haven’t examined our children, so why should they be given the power of law over my child? I’d be more comfortable if that choice and power were given to the licensed family doctor of the individual child.

And that one little statement: “Incentives to public health authorities…” Not that huge corporations have ever been caught bribing politicians, doctors, scientists and other people to forward their own agendas, but in case it could possibly happen, I would want a law that didn’t seem to tempt it so heavily.

Look, only the truly evil and insane wish for children to become sick, crippled or injured. Unfortunately such people exist and find ways to profit off tragedy or create panic over the potential for such tragedy so that they can reap the benefits. And if you want to try and tell me that such people don’t exist… well. That’s either a pretty sheltered view of the world or you are one of them. Case in point, a celebrity friend of mine recently had a well-paying job cancelled because he publicly opposed mandatory vaccination. Unfortunately the client who was paying him to do the ads had large investors who were all big Pharma and weren’t too happy about it. 

SHOULD YOU VACCINATE YOUR CHILD?

To vaccinate or not, that is the question before us.

It has become such a charged subject that these days asking people if they are for or against vaccination is like how it was to ask if people were for or against other matters where choice was involved a few years ago. I know, I know. That’s a heavy statement. But it’s true. You can really lose friends and associates rapidly depending on your answer. Parents who no longer invite you to playdates and so on.

Only the uneducated believe that vaccines are 100% safe. And only the uneducated believe that not taking vaccines is 100% safe.

You know why? Very few things in life are 100% safe. Driving your kid to school isn’t 100% safe. But that’s just life. We, as individuals and parents, have to do our best to make choices that minimize risk so that our children grow up in the best manner possible.

What if you gave your child a vaccination and they got extremely ill, crippled or even died? What would your reaction be? It’s terrible to contemplate.

But what if you didn’t vaccinate your child and they got a disease which it would’ve prevented and they wound up crippled, scarred for life or dead? How would you feel knowing that you could’ve prevented it?

It’s tough to be faced with that scenario, and yet every single parent is and must make that choice for their child and take responsibility for having made that choice.

Here is something that only parents really, truly understand: being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It isn’t 9-5, it isn’t 5 days a week, you can’t quit it (even if some think they can) and perhaps most painfully: every decision you make (especially in the youngest years of your children) can have a profound and lasting impact on your child’s life. Parents have to make tough calls. Frequently. And it weighs heavily on our souls.

Whether or not to vaccinate is one of them. I can imagine for some people that not having to make that choice is a relief, because then they have someone to blame. And that’s important to a lot of people unfortunately, but it won’t take away the pain of the consequences. So what do you do?

You have to educate yourself and understand the risks either way and choose what you feel is going to be best for your child.

Vaccination is simply about building up resistance to disease. No vaccine can state with 100% certainty that it can fully prevent it with no side-effects. But if you look at the amount of plague and true epidemics since the introduction of vaccination a lot can be said for it. As well as general cleanliness and improved living conditions.

Some people want their kids to build up natural immunity. When I grew up, whenever someone had chicken pox, all the kids in the neighborhood would go visit that house to get it over with.

I never got vaccinated, I’m alive and healthy 39 years later. My parents made that choice and I did okay.

A lot of people ask me what my stance on vaccination is: I choose to selectively vaccinate. There are some things that I feel are ridiculous to vaccinate against and others which make sense to me. But I also ensure that the vaccinations are fresh and mercury free. Why? Find out for yourself. Research a little. Get educated, that’s your job as a parent.

It sucks to have to make a life or death choice when it comes to your child. But you make them every day. You have figured out that it’s a good idea to ensure they have their seatbelts on, that they can’t get to the laundry detergent or the medicine cabinet, that they aren’t climbing up to tall a tree.

It’s life. You make your bet and you take your chances.

And if you don’t want to have to make the choice on vaccinations and the hundreds of other life or death decisions a parent is forced to make then it is simple: Don’t have a child.

HOW TO MAKE SB-277 WORK

There are a lot of other issues surrounding the subject and consequences of vaccination, but as far as SB-277 is concerned, the two fatal flaws which must be addressed for it to be a responsible law are:

1. Allow for freedom of choice and give schools/communities the power to decide democratically on the matter of whether a school must adhere to compulsory vaccination. It will mean that some schools will require 100% vaccination and for parents who want it, that will make them happy.

2. Remove the opportunity for government corruption and corporate greed contained in the gray areas and give the power of decision to the individual child’s doctor and their parents.

For what it’s worth, that’s my opinion on the matter.

MyGirls (7 of 8)

What to do when you have a baby and your relationship turns toxic

This is a chapter from my upcoming book “The Clueless Father’s Parenting Survival Guide.”

It’s also one of the longest chapters in the book. Sorry about that. But if I could spend an hour of reading and hopefully spare my child years of pain, I’d consider it a good trade.

I’d say probably about 15% of the book deals with preparing your relationship for having children and also things you can do to rescue the relationship if you weren’t prepared for what children would do to it.

Hope you find it helpful.

More

Baby Proofing Stuff We Bought

I’ve been asked numerous times what baby-proofing products we bought.

Rapid fire I will post the links for these here:

Outlet covers: Munchkin 36 Count Plug Covers

Fencing for blocking areas off: Northstate Superyard Playgate Light Gray

Gates for blocking off stairways, I can’t find the brand we got, but this is pretty good: Northstate Superyard Playgate Light Gray

Cabinet Locks: Safety 1st Magnetic Locking System Complete. As a note on these. Once our kids got older, they ripped them right off and instead of using the sticky tape, it required using screws.

Self-Closing Trash Cans: Simplehuman Step Trash Can, Black Plastic

Corner Guards: Prince Lionheart Corner Guards, Chocolate Brown. Be ready for your kids to rip these off a lot.

Stove Knob Guards: Safety 1st Clear View Stove Knob Covers 5-Pack

Power Strip covers: Safety 1st Power Strip Cover

I know a lot of people use way more safety proofing products than this. But common sense positioning of furniture and keeping dangerous stuff out of reach or put away also helps go a long way.

 

Awesome B-Complex Liquid Supplement

I don’t know about most people, but I get a very bad reaction to B-Complex. I know it’s a vitamin we are all supposed to take, but my reactions often made me avoid it.

I didn’t know until recently that a lot of b-complex formulas actually have cyanide in them. If you think I’m kidding just do a search on cyanide and b-complex and it’ll pop right up.

Well that’s terrifying right? You want the b-complex that’s made from Methylcobalamin. (I know right? Say that five times fast!) What’s funny is that this actually made sense as I’ve always gotten nauseous before when taking b-complex vitamins and although it’s vital, I often would shy away from it. My wife had the same experience.

So after trying various other brands, we finally settled on Complementary Prescriptions – Methylcobalamin. It’s cinnamon flavored which is great and it’s sub-lingual so it goes right in the mouth for thirty seconds under the tongue and all done. Good stuff. I get a great energy boost every time and it keeps me peppy even when the day is dragging.

BComplex

Anti-Stress Supplements that Work

I get easily stressed. I work 6-7 days a week and generally about 14 hours a day. We never seem to have enough money or time. The kids, as adorable as they are, can get on the nerves and generally I can be on edge more often than not. But this isn’t good for my health and the doc told me I need to figure out a way to reduce stress levels and get better sleep at night.

After a bunch of searching I found another Natural Vitality product that really helped. It also helped as an after exercise muscle soother which prevented me from being severely sore the next day.

It’s called Natural Calm Raspberry Lemon and is a great supplement that you can mix in hot water and drink like a tea. They have a variety of flavors and packet sizes. I suggest starting with smaller doses and working your way up as I have found taking too much can upset the stomach. Anyways their instructions are pretty clear. Hope it helps.

CALM

Great Vitamin packs for pregnant moms and stressed out dads

I’ll say it at the outset. I hate taking pills vitamins and vitamin packs. They always upset my stomach. I never seem to feel any results and I’m generally quitting taking them after a few weeks.

I found these great liquid vitamin packs which are organic, vegan and generally yummy and give me a good boost of energy, don’t upset my tummy and my wife loved them as well (although she preferred to have them in orange juice). If you are on the market for a good supplement, these come highly recommended.

They are called Natural Vitality Organic Life Vitamin Nutri Packsand I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Hope you like them!

Nutri-Packs

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