You may have seen them decorating the desks of sports-obsessed co-workers or mounted on the dashboards of restored automobiles at classic car shows. Whether it's old school baseball or football players or miniature animals with oversized wobbling heads, there's something unsettling about the bobblehead doll.
Is it the petrified smiles on their oversized faces? Can it be those eyes with stony gazes that never waver, and appear to look right through you?
Little did Chicagoan Jim Higley know the bobblehead collecting gene he "inherited" from his four older brothers as a young boy would become so ingrained thirtysomething years later. The quintessential worker bee, Jim was so completely immersed in a never-ending loop of commuting, work, single-parenting and, generally, too many responsibilities that, frankly, existing was all he knew.
Who knew a randomly checked box on a lab worksheet, perhaps by mistake, during an annual physical would lead to a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that no one expected to be a problem until it was, and soon shatter Jim's bobbleheaded life forever.
It was during the summer of 2005 that Jim rediscovered his humanity and re-learned many of the lessons he shares in his debut book, Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, a wonderful memoir just published by Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Learn a little more about Jim and his life as a single parent of three kids and cancer survivor by watching this YouTube video and perusing this latest CNCA interview with our favorite Bobblehead Dad.
Q: Why did you write Bobblehead Dad?
I never started to write a book. Actually, I started this as a collection of stories for my three children when I came face-to-face with the reality that I might not be around to raise them. There's nothing like the prospect of seeing your own life cut short to get you in touch with things that matter.
For me, what mattered was leaving a part of myself for Kevin, Wallis and Drew in hopes that it might someday provide a framework for living their lives.
Q: Why did it take fighting cancer -- a battle your parents and brother lost -- to reclaim your life?
In a funny way, it was precisely because my mom, dad, and brother lost their battles to cancer, that I felt a strong sense of obligation and determination to win my battle. Not just for myself, but for my family. There was a dragon that needed to be slain, and I was the one chosen to do so.
Q: Of the 25 lessons you discuss in your book, which ones were the hardest for you to relearn?
Without giving away the book, it would have to be the last five. They all focus on living in the moment. Peacefully. And, contently. I really have to work on embracing that which is in front of me. And I'm learning, the more I do that, the richer life becomes.
Q: Do men have many more lessons to relearn about life in general than women?
Not at all! I think all of us -- men and women -- are in need of occasional refresher courses with our own life lessons simply because we live in a world that moves too fast.
Q: This book tells the story of how cancer changed your life forever. How did it change your kids?
My kids have lived with a lot of cancer. They each make me proud beyond words. But one of the things I am most proud of is knowing that when they hear of any need that is related to cancer -- an event, a person, a classmate, a family -- they are one of the first to help. They get it. They know they can make a difference.
Q: What did you learn about your kids through this ordeal?
I learned to really see the gifts that they bless me with. See them. Accept them. Embrace them. Celebrate them. And, be ever-so-grateful for them. That would be Lesson 18, I believe!
Q: Do you feel like a role model?
Absolutely! But, then again, I think we are all role models to the people in our life. That's one of the most tangible ways we learn.
Q: Cancer killed your parents and one of your brothers. Unfortunately, that doesn't seems as unusual as it once was, especially for a big family like yours. Have any advice for families who may have catastrophic health medical history?
For starters, my first advice is to get regular medical checkups. Work with your doctors to proactively identify any risks that you or other members of your family might be subject to and develop a plan to combat it. Not doing that is like playing Russian roulette.
My second advice is to consider being advocates for whatever illness your family has experienced. Volunteer. Share your story. Help spread information. Your experience matters and you can help others by being visible volunteers who spread important messages.
Q: You just celebrated your sixth cancer-free year… Is a cancer survivor really ever cancer-free?
Unfortunately, no. My oncologist still believes I have dormant cancer cells hiding somewhere in my body. So, truthfully, I don't feel cancer-free. I take medication daily as part of a program to keep my dormant cancer cells asleep. I undergo a series of tests every three months to look for markers of any cancer activity. So, I live on short string.
I tell people I live life one three-month hall pass at a time. And, I'm always in the middle of the best three months of my life. My goal is to keep stringing them together!
Q: Bobblehead Dad was a finalist for a 2011 International Book Award, an amazing accomplishment for a first-time author. What's next?
Well, right now I'm really trying to enjoy the moment and this experience of being a conduit for such a simple - yet seemingly powerful - message. I love writing columns about finding meaning in the nooks and crannies of life. I'm about to start hosting a weekly radio show on fatherhood. I'm outlining a concept for the next book. I'm constantly trying to figure out how to better help so many important cancer causes -- especially Imerman Angels.
But honestly, the most important "next" thing is whatever seems to be on my family's agenda today. Whatever it is pretty much trumps most other things in my life.
Look for Jim on the Web at his newly relaunched Bobblehead Dad.com blog, DadsGood: The Best of the Daddy Bloggers and the Chicago Tribune's TribLocal.com page.