WCL: Jim Higley: Bobblehead Dad

Author Jim Higley is shown in this image.

Jim Higley was a typical middle-age dad from Kenilworth, Ill. whose world, overnight, went from the soccer field sidelines cheering on his children to the sidelines of life. At the age of 44, Jim became the fourth member of his immediate family to receive a diagnosis of cancer and suddenly found himself with an entire summer removed from all of life's obligations as he allowed his body to heal after surgery. Described as "Martha Stewart meets MacGyver," after a 23-year career in corporate America Jim zipped up his briefcase and became a fulltime stay-at-home dad. Since then--in addition to writing-his world centers around carpools, bake sales, attempting to make school play costumes with a glue gun, and simply being home and available. 24/7. Jim is the inaugural 'Worlds Greatest Dad for Man of the House magazine. His kids, however, are requesting a recount.

Jim's first book, Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, is an inspirational story about his journey through cancer, fatherhood, and the rediscovery of twenty-five forgotten life lessons-including the one lesson that provides the roadmap for living the second half of his life with intent and purpose. Through humorous and poignant memories, Bobblehead Dad unwraps lessons from the past-revealing meaning in simple moments and the people who fill them-including the surprise discovery of Higley's most important lesson, quietly waiting for over thirty years. Written in an informal but eloquent voice, Bobblehead Dad keeps readers laughing, crying and-most importantly-thinking about their own life journey. Higley's distinctive storytelling rhythm, combined with a knack for handling heavy topics with an embraceable voice, quickly draws readers into his experiences-while launching them on their own journey of self-discovery and reflection.


(Book Excerpt)

Introduction: "Hello. I'm a Bobblehead."

As a kid, I collected bobbleheads. As an adult, I had become one.

With four older brothers, I sort of inherited their old bobblehead dolls when I was a young boy. They were all baseball player bobbleheads. Truthfully, I didn't even like baseball that much, but I thought it was fun to play with the little figurines and their spring-loaded heads.

My favorite was a Mickey Mantle bobblehead. I liked seeing how long I could keep his noggin in motion with just the right flick from my index finger. Too hard and I'd end up with a spastic head jerk that came to a sudden stop. Too soft and the toy suffered the same fate. But when I found that perfect amount of pressure, I'd enjoy a bobble that would go on for a long, carefree bounce until the head ultimately rebalanced itself.

I was easily amused.

I also was fascinated by how Mickey's face would maintain a permanent, frozen smile no matter how fast or furious his head rocked.

Thirty-some years later, I was much like that bobblehead, going through the motions of life --perfect smile and all -- just bouncing away. By all accounts, I was living a full and abundant life with my family and my career. And, to a great degree, I was. Maybe you knew me back then. I was firing on all cylinders, always in a constant state of motion, and looking pretty stable.

At the time, I even thought I was doing pretty well. But the truth is things were moving so fast in my world, I stopped connecting with the events, experiences, and people waiting for me in each day. I survived by bobbling.

My best bobbling, I'm ashamed to say, was saved for my three kids. Consumed with a job that had me leaving the house long before they were up, I was exhausted by the time I arrived home in the evening.

"Wudya do today?" was my standard question for the kids as I tried to connect in some way to the worlds that were theirs.

As a young grade-schooler, my daughter, Wallis, would always provide feature-length film descriptions of her day, recounting every eye-opening experience and emotion. Like helium escaping from a balloon, her words couldn't come fast enough. And there I was, wearing my Mickey Mantle smile, bobbling along and pretending to listen while many of her words ricocheted off me at lightning speed.

Bad. Bobbling. Dad.

Unfortunately, kids are smart, and they quickly sense when you're not really paying attention to them. So they stop talking and, eventually, just grunt or nod.

That's how we became a bobblehead dad and his three nodding children.

When I reached the age of forty-four, however, my bobbling came to a screeching halt. It was much like the day--as a child--I accidentally stretched Mickey Mantle's head a little too far and snapped the spring. When my own bobbling world snapped, I found myself with an entire summer at home removed from all of life's obligations.

How does a middle-aged guy manage to land an entire summer off? Well, I had cancer. It's something my parents and siblings encounter with regularity. Some families have red hair. Or they spawn a lot of tall people. Mine produces very ordinary people who have a propensity for cancer. So I had plenty of training under my belt when my own world was turned upside down with surgery and a summer at home to heal.

But this is not only a cancer story. It's a story about a dad who had a chance--at the halftime show of his life--to stop bobbling and relearn many of the life lessons he'd forgotten. It's a story that reveals the meaning found in simple moments and the people who fill them.

Most importantly for me, it's the story that unfolded a road map to living the second half of my life with intent.