Remember the Super Bowl commercial where a little Darth Vader tries to use his powers on a car in his driveway?
Jim Higley may have one up on that.
Years ago, the former Fremonter decided to hook up a Clapper device to his TV so he could just clap his hands to turn it on. While testing it, he discovered that his son, Kevin - then just 3 years old - was watching. Jokingly, Higley said he had magical powers and that his son probably had them, too. He had the child stand in front of the television and clap.
"And for months, I'd hear him practicing his magical powers in front of the TV," he said.
Today, Higley jokes that his son, now a student at the University of Dayton, is probably in front of a flat screen somewhere - clapping.
In the meantime, Higley is busy with a plethora of writing projects that include a weekly column for the Chicago Tribune's suburban paper, TribLocal. He is also a contributing writer for DadsGood: The Best of Daddy Bloggers, and a featured contributor for Man of the House magazine, both of which have readers around the world. Last fall, Higley became the first-ever winner of the "World's Greatest Dad Challenge" by Man of the House.
Now, the 1978 Fremont High School graduate has authored his first book titled "Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew." The book is set for release June 1 - not long before the John C. Fremont Days festival where he will speak in the Chautauqua Tent on July 9.
Higley looks forward to returning to Fremont where he grew up along with his four brothers in the 1960s and '70s. He has fond memories of hanging out at a local swimming pool, bicycling around town and riding inner tubes down the ditches when it rained.
Higley's parents, Betty and Bob, raised their children on East 10th Street. Higley traces his own writing skills to his mother.
"Mom was an extraordinary writer," he said. "I'd often sneak into her desk and read some of her letters because she was such a funny writer and I'd like to think my writing style stems from her writing style. She was a very candid, pure, authentic writer. She wrote from the heart."
But Higley didn't pursue writing - at least not right away.
He earned a degree in architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1982 and eventually got into the commercial real estate business, which became a 22-year career. He would become the father of two sons, Kevin and Drew, and a daughter, Wallis.
Five years ago, Higley, then 44, was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer.
"They caught it by accident. I had zero symptoms," he said, adding, "I was extremely lucky. My oncologist and surgeon said I probably would have been dead within a year had they not found it."
Higley had surgery and follow-up therapy with a three-month recovery.
"Shortly thereafter, I turned in my briefcase in exchange for driving the carpool," he said. "I decided I needed to take advantage of the time I had with the kids while they were still young. I walked away from corporate America and became a full-time stay-at-home dad. It was by far the best decision I've ever made in my life."
While focusing on being chairman of a bake sale or making costumes for a school play, Higley began writing.
A single dad, Higley would write under the pen name Bobblehead Dad - a term he had used to describe himself when he was a typical 40-year-old parent going nutty with too many things - work, kids' activities and volunteering.
"I described myself as simply bobbling through life. I was moving and I was smiling, but truthfully I wasn't really living - in effect I was nothing more than a bobblehead dad," he said. "People related to that term. We're all overwhelmed. We've all got too much stuff going on."
As he began writing, opportunities materialized. He started a blog titled "Bobblehead Dad" more than a year ago and was quickly picked up by the Chicago Tribune. He began writing a column called "Bobblehead Dad" for the Tribune's suburban paper in January 2010.
He then learned about the "World's Greatest Dad" contest. At first, Higley opted not to enter, thinking the contest was focused on young dads. But a big part of the contest involved a video. So he made one that included light-hearted wisdom. The video captured worldwide attention during a monthlong voting process.
He won and donated the cash award to "Imerman Angels," a cancer support group. Along with the win came the chance to write for Man of the House.
Higley then was invited to write for "The Good Men Project," one of the largest men's publications in the world. He's one of the featured writers for a section called DadsGood: Best of the Daddy Bloggers.
His topics vary.
"I write about fatherhood, almost always, and a lot about cancer and probably - more than anything - what I write about is those nuggets of life that are waiting in the nooks and crannies of our days," he said.
And while he doesn't fancy himself as the world's greatest dad, Higley hopes he promoted the belief that all men and women have the ability and responsibility to be "the world's greatest" to their children.
His new book includes 25 stories, many of which are taken from his Fremont childhood, in which he shares how his youthful experiences provided him with critical lessons he'd need as an adult. He'll have notices of when the book is available via his Bobblehead Dad Facebook page.
In the meantime, Higley simply plans to keep writing and fathering.
"If I can keep doing those two things, I'll be a very happy person," he said.
So does he think about being a grandfather now that Kevin is 21, Wallis 18 and Drew 15?
"That's so far on the horizon," he said. "I'm assuming that's years away for me. But God willing, if I'm around, I'm sure it will come with an abundance of blessings and more things to write about."