A Warning For Parents: Beware, Pics Of Your Kids Are Being Stolen

Nelson updated his Facebook profile with the cutest pic ever. The CUTEST. It was a little kid wearing an oversized sweater which had mistakenly gone through the dryer and no longer fit her dad. So dad had given the sweater to his daughter and it fit just right. She had the biggest grin. How’d I know all this? No, Nelson didn’t tell me. Nelson didn’t write about it either. In fact, I don’t know where in the world Nelson is. We’ve never met. But I know that kid. She’s MY daughter. And somewhere around the world, someone I’ve never met has been using her photo as his Facebook profile.

Creepy? I’ll say.
Disturbing? You bet.
Worrisome? Absolutely.

So that’s how I found out. I woke up last week to a notification from Facebook alerting me someone may be using a profile picture which really doesn’t belong to them. They asked me to confirm it which I did. I had the option to block him which I did. Facebook said it would investigate.

Who was this guy?
I don’t know. The account had no friends and few posts. Just a couple of pictures and the one front and center was MY kid in the shrunken sweater.

It got me thinking about all those photos I’ve shared over the years. All those stories I’ve shared. On my dadmissions page I stopped posting most pics of my kids a few years ago. I don’t even use their names on my dadmissions page anymore. On my personal page I still share. But now I’m wondering what the cost is for all this interconnectivity we’ve all created. What is the unintended cost to my kids of my social media footprint that THEY never bargained for. We’ve all seen bogus accounts pop up with friend requests. This somehow felt different to me. Invasive. Probably because it affected MY family, and MY kid, who has never even been on Facebook.

Luckily, Facebook was very proactive and notified me about the photo. Or so I thought. Because I woke up this week to another alert from Facebook. This time someone named Williams was using the same pic. Same thing. New profile. Again I replied back to Facebook. Again they said they would investigate. Again: annoyed, disturbed, creeped out.

Sure maybe it’s just some automated account. Or maybe it’s some overseas scammer. Or maybe it’s someone who has NO place having any types of pictures of any children. It very unsettling.

So on a Saturday morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and one by one started to copy and then delete the memories I had been sharing on Dadmissions over the years. One pic. Then another.

Delete.
Delete.
Delete.
Delete.

And I couldn’t help but gulp back a tear, sad to be looking back through all these great memories I had shared, sad that I may have put my kids in this situation, sad that the world can’t always be trusted to get a glimpse into your life.

In each of the cases, Facebook has now replied to me that they looked at the profiles created and they “don’t” violate Facebook’s community rules. I don’t really know what that means. I’ve already blocked both accounts and reported them and I will continue to do so. And I’ll certainly think twice before posting public photos of my kids. Moreover, I’m going to look at my security settings on ALL my social media accounts to see where things might be tightened up to be more secure.

I hesitated to even write this. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore things and leave them alone. But sometimes there’s an important message other parents need to hear. This is the latter. Watch what you post online. Watch your security settings. Be vigilant about who has access to your life. Not everyone out there is a friend.

imageBelow are a couple of good articles with tips on how to protect yourself online:
The 411 on online impersonation:

http://jerad.blog/someone-impersonating-online/

How can I stop online impersonation:

https://www.google.com/amp/lifehacker.com/5902295/how-can-i-stop-someone-impersonating-me-online/amp?client=safari

protecting your online photos:

http://www.photoattorney.com/five-things-you-can-do-to-protect-your-online-images/

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Finding Hope In The Year We’re FINALLY Getting Rid Of

In a year that seemed to be such a downer, I found hope.

In a year that saw me lose my job of 16 years, I found a new job, and hope

In a year that saw America ripped apart at the seams by politics, still, I have hope

In a year that saw so many deaths, we got a new baby nephew, and hope

In a year that saw me jump fifteen pounds, I recently lost ten, and gained hope

In a year that seemed to be such a downer, I have my family, my kids, my wife, my life.

I have great hope for 2017

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Cupcake The Wonder Dog: How A Shelter Pet Became Family

My wife and I never thought we’d be dog owners. But that all changed on a chilly fall day several years ago when the West Valley animal shelter in Los Angeles brought two little puppies to the tv station where I worked. The kids really wanted a dog and we’d talked about it with the kids for a while. They even doggie sat ANOTHER dog — a great golden retriever– for a weekend just to see what it would be like. We were just waiting for the right time and the right dog. This was both. We were told we’d have to go line up at the shelter like everyone else if we wanted to adopt a dog. So we did.

The next morning we loaded the girls into the car. I remember so vividly the pouring rain, a cold driving rain. We got there at the shelter right as they opened. So did another family. And they were looking right at the dog WE were looking at. But they eventually picked another. We picked ours. It was a cold and rainy and blustery Saturday. It was the day Cupcake came home.  The girls named her.

A border terrier lab mix, Cupcake was soooo tiny when she came home; she couldn’t even make a squeak. The kids loved having her around so much. She quickly became the third kid in the family. As Cupcake grew, she grew into her bark. So playful and so loving, Cupcake’s number one mission: protect the family. Bark bark bark, then lick lick lick. Maybe the worst protection dog ever. And she earned her name. One day we made cupcakes for one of the kids’ birthdays. Twelve vanilla cupcakes on the table. We came in to the kitchen and only the crumbs remained. Cupcake hid in the corner with a satisfied dog grin. Cupcake had undoubtedly eaten all the evidence.

Whenever people ask about Cupcake, I always tell them she’s a shelter dog. I feel so good that we got her out of the shelter and have given her her a good home. Cupcake’s bed sits right by the heater. When she’s too warm, her head flops out of her bed onto the cold, wooden planks on the floor. Just hanging out. Typical teenager.  She doesn’t jump but stands up on two legs putting those long front paws on you to say hello. She goes into the living room and walks under your feet using your legs to scratch her back. She sits by the table just waiting for you to make a mistake with your fork.  When our little girl falls asleep on the couch, Cupcake sneaks a lick right on the lips.   That dog has owned the house for five years. Owned it. And us.

Recently Cupcake started exploring more. Cupcake would run the hill behind our house. This week Cupcake got out and made a run down the sidewalk. My wife gave chase. That dog is always so mischievous. Cupcake ran across the street. She took one look at my wife. She ran back towards her. A car hit her. The driver had to know. My wife saw it. I saw it. The driver never looked back and just continued down the street. By this time I was running behind my wife. Cupcake limped to the side of the road. I thought she had broken her leg. But it was worse than that. She just laid down. We knelt down beside her. My wife burst into tears. The couple who never saw ourselves as dog owners, now sitting there just comforting our dog, rubbing her behind her ears and on her neck, talking to her, letting her know we were there. A neighbor walking her dog saw what happened and was in tears too. She wanted to know what she could do to help.  There was nothing to do except give Cupcake the last few moments of love. We did. My wife brought a big comfy towel out and we cradled Cupcake like when we first brought her home and we brought her back to the house. One daughter was still at home and inconsolable. The other was already at school and had no idea what had happened. She does now.

An ordinary Thursday turned into a morning none of us will ever forget.

It’s funny how a pet can change a family, can nurture a family, can become part of the fabric of the family. The couple who never saw ourselves as dog owners. Now we do.  So here it is:  my favorite picture of Cupcake.  The window down, Cupcake chasing the wind like the captain of her own ship.  I always thought she looked like Falcor from the Neverending story in this pic.  Fitting.  The little puppy from the shelter will never be forgotten.

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A Note To My Kids On The Eve Of A Historic Election

To my girls on the eve of a historic Election:

For the first time in my life, I really believe we are standing at a crossroads in our country’s history. The nation is so divided. The common ground seemingly so far apart. Each side believing it is on the correct side. Each side convinced the other is so wrong. You and I are here as witnesses to history, as Americans head to the polls on Election Day to decide which way to go.

Remember this:

No matter what happens on Election Day, On Wednesday morning, you’ll still get up and go to school. On Wednesday morning, mom and dad will still get up and go to work. You’ll still play, and learn, and read. Then when the sun sets on Wednesday night, we’ll still be there to tuck you in. You’ll still cuddle up in bed, and snuggle, and dream.  We’ll still love you.  Forever and for always. 

Same. As. Before.

My hope no matter who wins, is for friends to mend those broken fences, for differences to be set aside, for us to move forward even if it takes time. Because on Wednesday, our flag will still be there. We are one nation, and we need to be indivisible. It’s written in to our history as we begin a new chapter.

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The Long And Winding Road

There’s something about a road trip alone… just you and the road. More specifically, just you and the road and your thoughts. As you clock miles on the odometer, without distractions, it provides thinking time, decision time, precious time. And so it was for me. This past week I traveled to the Bay Area for a couple of days of job interviews. It’s been a summer of chasing opportunities and those roads had led in different directions… all of a sudden converging right here… to an intersection where I’d have to choose. And so I hit the road. I could have flown for sure, but I wanted that time alone. I wanted that time to think things out. I wanted that time to myself.

The meetings went great here in LA and there in the Bay Area. So many incredibly talented people giving me faith that the news business is far from doomed. It’s beginning a metamorphosis.. and so am I. For two days I stayed with my cousins, toured San Francisco, lived out of a suit case, spoke with my wife and kids on the phone at night. It’s pretty amazing but just a couple of days away from the family can make you miss them so much. My kids asked how the trip was going, they wanted to know when I’d be home. They wanted to know if we’d be moving. They wanted to know all the answers. So did I.

After the second day of meetings finished, tired from the trip, with a long road ahead, I crossed the Bay Bridge to begin the trek back home. My iPad was my companion, a chance to listen to 400 miles of music that I never get to hear. I did the first 100 miles in no time. It’s that second hundred and the hundred after that where most of the thinking is done. The road down the 5 to Los Angeles can be long and lonely. It’s farmland and lots of it. It’s just you and the road and those thoughts. And so it was for me… thinking about these opportunities and a potential move and what the best move was for my career and for my family. My eyes stinging with exhaustion, the road continued on. The music kept playing. My iPad is a mix of a lot of old stuff and some news stuff. It was on shuffle and clearly the shuffle was trying to tell me something. Styx started with “Babe” and the words welled up inside me: “you know it’s you babe.. whenever I get weary and I’ve had enough… feel like giving up… you know it’s you babe,” I was homesick. Then the iPad sucker punched me again with Chicago’s “Colour My World”… “As time goes on, I realize, just what you mean to me…” By now I thought the iPad was conspiring against me. It was me and the road and the farmland and the iPad of music which was trying to sway my decision making. The iPad went in for the kill with a song you might not even know. It’s one of my favorites.. that song we all have which always triggers just the right emotions.. THAT song. “Forever Autumn” a song by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. In the middle of ten thousand songs of music, on a lonely drive back to Los Angeles, a chance shuffle of the iPad brought all these songs together. And Hayward sang, “A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes… as if to hide a lonely tear… my life will be forever autumn.. ’cause you’re not here“. And there I was on the 5 with two hundred miles left in my my drive, just a man and his thoughts, with tears filling my eyes. And all of a sudden the months of searching for my next career stop seemed to come into focus. If we needed to separate for months to make the job happen, if we had to leave the neighborhood we love and the friends we’ve made, if we had to sacrifice each other and that precious time together…

Without my family beside me, all of it was meaningless.

The final hundred miles of a long trip can go slow as molasses or lightning fast. Knowing my wife and girls were on the other end made the ride move quick. Sun was setting as I made my way over the Grapevine and into the LA area and finally down the side streets of town. As I made the final leg of the drive, I thought of one more song to add to that iPad mix “The Long And Winding Road” “that leads to your door… I’ve seen that road before… It always leads me here”. I finally pulled into the driveway of our tiny house. I went inside, dropped my bag, and greeted everyone. I was home.  My decision was made.

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Nirvana Nevermind: an appreciation

It was this week 25 years ago. 25 years. Where did the time go. I was 16. I was in high school still reeling from the death of my father when I heard this new song for the first time. MTV played the video. The dirty gymnasium with the cheerleaders and the janitor. The song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the band was about to change what we thought of music forever. Nirvana tore across the music landscape like a comet. My friend Ben Donovan and I had already started our DJ company in Boston playing music at school dances, proms, parties. I guess you could say we were the outcast DJ’s, a little like Nirvana. We weren’t afraid to play classic rock or disco or whatever people really wanted to hear in addition to top 40. That included Nirvana. The song would be an automatic mosh pit at schools. It blistered through our Peavey speakers and pierced the souls of all those school kids including myself. Somehow it spoke to what we were all going through at the time- adolescent angst. Nirvana became more and more popular. By the time I got in to the WBCN listener line and eventually into the studio as an assistant producer on the afternoon show, Nirvana had graduated to elite status. I’m sure Nik Carter Bill Abbate or Oedipus can confirm we were playing them probably once an hour and oftentimes at the very top of the hour. If you listened to WBCN in the early 90’s, Nevermind was screaming out of your car speakers for sure. And it deserved to. When Kurt Cobain died, I never really thought about the impact that album and that band would have all these years later. It helped shape the last 25 years of music. I’m now married, with kids, living in California. WBCN is no longer. But Nevermind always will be. Which brings me to today, thousands of miles from home, from WBCN, from my dj days at schools and colleges. I went to the back corner of the garage and rummaged through some boxes and there it was. MY copy of Nevermind. THE copy I bought in 1991. You can see the letter P that I put on all my discs to tell them apart when we dj’d and the duct tape I used on the case when the cover broke because we played it so often. I took the disc out and looked at it. I got in the car and popped the disc in. 25 years later, Smells Like Teen Spirit blasted out of my car speakers. It sounded just as good.

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Dare To Fair: The 2016 LA County Fair

There’s something about a fair: the rides, the crazy food, the smiles, the fun.  Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved going to carnivals and fairs.  Since moving here to Southern California years ago, I’ve marked the change in seasons by the fairs.  The LA County Fair arrives in September with school and football and my birthday.

So this weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to Pomona and the Fairplex to check out this year’s fair.

Full disclosure: since I’m a blogger writing about the fair, they covered admission for four and parking.  That was certainly a big help for any family but there are discounts people can get.  My kids donated canned food one year for our free admission on a weekday.  This year, we planned on getting $50 unlimited ride wristbands for the kids but got there too late in the day for the wristbands.  So I made my biggest purchase of the day: $200 in ride tickets that I split onto four cards for my girls, their friend, and an extra for us.  No one ever said the fair was cheap and rides/games always seem to cost the most.  The kids had a blast on rides which spun, rolled, twisted, and flipped.  I loved just watching them on the rides.  I still got my Tilt A Whirl on.  Love that thing.  Awesome.

As the sun set, it was time for dinner.  Can’t go wrong with the giant turkey legs at the chuck wagon.  They were definitely shareable, massive,  and delish.  We got one of those refillable drinks and refilled it about 50 times with lemonade during the night any time someone was thirsty.   After dinner,  we went over to one of the stands where they fry everything and had deep fried Oreos for dessert.  Actually that was dessert number one.  Because later in the night I had a chocolate gelato Sundae.  Hey, it’s my birthday weekend and it’s the fair and whatever happens at the fair stays at the fair.

We did a TON of walking, made our way slowly around, saw some of the exhibits including the flowers which were beautiful.  We didn’t have tickets to the concert in the grandstand but were close enough to hear every song which was played by country star Lee Brice.

The time went so fast.  Before we knew it, it was after 11pm with the kids and their friend and they had nearly closed out the fair.  Some fair attractions weren’t covered by tickets: we paid extra for our kids to do the euro trampoline jump, and the hamster wheels on the water.  But at the end of the night, they still had some tickets left which was a good thing.  We used them on the fishing game where EVERY player gets a prize.  We started to head toward the exit and grabbed a final corn dog for the walk.  Don’t tell.

In the end, I took out $400 from the ATM for the day and with rides, games, food, and extras, we didn’t use it all.  I came back with money.  So we know the fair isn’t cheap.  But the fair is tradition.  The fair only comes once a year. The fair is family, and memories, and fun, and awesomeness.

Till next year, LA County Fair.

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