Why I Hate Divorce Attorneys

After losing my job, one of the first things I did that day was contact a divorce attorney to have my support payments legally reduced due to my extreme circumstances. On the recommendation of a close friend, I contacted an attorney who was touted as the best in area, having handled multi-million dollar settlements without ever losing a case. You can already guess this guy was going to be expensive, but because he was drinking buddies with my friend, I would get a cut rate. For the best attorney in Houston this is what I got:
  • When they sent the original papers to my former spouse, they goofed on the address sending it 3 states in the other direction, and new papers had to be drawn, which would require more money, but they said I wouldn't be charged for it since it was their mistake
  • Two months later the new papers were sent, but were still wrong resulting in petitioning the court to move back the trial date
  • After numerous phone calls (at a cost of X hundred dollars per 15 minutes), I was told the new court date
  • Third set of papers sent... 6 weeks later
  • Bill sent which includes charges for all calls I made to them, every goof up in paperwork, the address screw up, and filing fees to adjust court dates... and no friends and family discount
  • Called attorney's office several days before court date only to be told they had filed another continuance and pushed the date back. The new court date? One year after the day originally contacted the attorney.
  • Received notice informing me their office needed another $X thousand dollars to keep them on retainer.
In response to this notice, I sent a reply that went something like this.

Dear Mr. Azraypenmee,

Given my extreme financial situation I have no means by which to pay for any future services from your office, unless you can accept payments in the form of chickens, cases of low quality beer, or old money from the Confederate State of America. (Please note, should you select the payment by chickens option, I will need time to requisition them under cover of darkness. I use chickens to pay my credit card balances, and I think the nearby farm in on to me.) I believe this method of compensation is commensurate to your level of service.

It seems that every time I call to inquire as to the status of my case I am told by your staff that they will get back with me. By "getting back with me," I take this to mean getting back at me because it's been three weeks since my last call and I still have heard nothing except the request for more money to keep you on retainer. I applaud your compassion in employing the physically handicapped on your staff, but I am curious as to how you found enough people born without arms to fill your entire office. Couldn't they - I don't know - pound their nubs into the keypad and use their nose to nudge the receiver off the hook? Then they could just lay their checks down on the desk and speak, or grunt or... breath heavily into the phone?

Had I not called prior to the last court date, I'd have been standing at the court house with a stupid grin on my broke ass mug. To this day, I don't know why it was moved and when I asked I was told, "We'll get back to you on that."

I realize that in the big scheme of things I am just a peon compared to the normal clients the firm deals with; however, you would do well to know that I am somebody, and I like me. I have watched Jerry McGuire seven times, and the message I gleaned from it was never to let a divorce attorney step on your self-esteem.

Before you reject my suggested payment proposal, please keep in mind that the value of chickens is higher that that of
alpacas. Likewise, Confederate money is still good in Alabama and certain parts of Mississippi, and who doesn't need a little cheap beer.

Forgive me for this lengthy response which I will now conclude realizing it probably has already cost me half a dozen
Banty Roosters and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon just to have you read it this far. Like chasing the hot girl famous for being the high school tease, I feel this has been a waste of my time and money with nothing to show for it. I hope you enjoy the ski trip your armless secretary told me you would be on next week. Feel free to spend the thousands of dollars I sent you rather than giving it to my own children.

Other than that, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Take Care.

PS - In case you are looking for a great addition to your holiday meal, I have an excellent recipe for sweaty, hairy balls. They taste exquisite, especially when sucked on.

The response from Bentover & Azraypenme said something to the effect of they took this to mean I wouldn't be sending the retainer fee.


On the day of court, I met with my ex-wife's attorney. We settled the entire case in fifteen minutes while sitting in the hallway outside the courtroom. When I stood in front of the judge, she was surprised to learn I would be representing myself, but I assured her I had watched a lot of Law & Order. She and everyone nearby broke down laughing. And the total cost to me? $0.00.

As we left the courtroom, the attorney said, "You know, I tried to find something to get you on in this case, but I couldn't. You did everything right." His remark, however, only went in one ear and out the other; I was still hurt that my vaunted attorney never took me up on that recipe.


Friday Fotoes - Whatever, I Just Made This Up

Friday Fotoes (Photos)? Yeah, just made that up because I've got a full plate of writing projects at the moment. Since everyone else posted pics of their kids on the first day of school, I figured, hey, why not. Here are the girls--don't be fooled by their looks (think Woodland Creatures from South Park). In any case, they had a great day even though their bus was 40 minutes late (the driver is the intelectual equivelant of a bag-o-hammers). That afternoon we got a call from the school nurse. Avery had a sudden, massive bloody nose (I blame her former Coke habbit-carbonated beverages are not meant to be shot from your nostrils), and she needed new clothes.

Wish I had pictures of the boys, but their mom's not into that kind of thing.

Of course, now that the year has begun, I am back to my regular morning duties to get them out the door.


Star-struck: Can I Have Your Autograph?

Yesterday was a rare treat for my wife and I as we were lucky enough to have lunch with Mary Anne a.k.a "The Stiletto Mom" (Photo: Ash & Mary Anne). To sit down with such a well-known name in the blogging community was the equivalent to unscrewing the cap off a pop bottle and winning a chance to meet a celebrity. And let me tell you, I thought she was classy from her blog, but she's even more so in person. Topics ranged from crazy kid antics and other big-time bloggers (Hi Deb!) to publishing books and BlogHer. (she convinced me to go next year.)

Poor Mary Anne, not only did she have to contend with the Houston humidity and near 100 degree heat, but she also discovered that I'm much more interesting on a blog than in person. Thankfully my wife was there to save the day. While they conversed, I tried not to appear too goofy.

In the nearly two years that I've been posting, I am continually amazed by the incredible people you come across that you might have never met otherwise. Listening to Mary Anne and my wife conversing, I kept thinking about how much the concept of community has changed because of blogging and social networking.

This reminded me of a moment while visiting my parents in PA last month. I'm a big local history enthusiast, and a new book just came out covering that of the small village (yes, it's technically a village) I grew up in. I brought the book for my family to go through, and there were so many people they knew, so many places that had changed, so many memories.

"Hey honey, do you remember so-and-so?" they would ask back and forth while turning the pages. Usually the reply would be, "Yeah, but I don't know what he's doing now," or "Well, they died a couple years ago from a _________."

These exchanges made me realize how localized communities were a generation earlier, confined within geographical areas and social circles. With all the people my parents mentioned, it seemed logical that, to some extent, those social circles would continue to dwindle into nothing. Things are so different today.

We can Twitter forever with people half a world away, or post Facebook status updates letting old boy/girlfriends from two decades ago know that we are currently cleaning the toilet. Flickr lets us share pictures of our vacation with friends when we could have only described this before. With our blogs, we can share funny stories about our crazy in-laws, or write more honest posts opening up to complete strangers about our innermost feelings. There's a great deal of good for us to be connected with others.

Yet, for all these bridges built by technology that allow us to extend our communities beyond localized borders, there's still one element that those past social circles have not replaced - face-to-face interaction. To sit across from a real person is still a special thing. Thanks Mary Anne.

* * * * * *

Mary Anne and my wife are going to kill me for posting these pictures, but I have no idea why. They are great, while I'm the one who looks like a whiny clown having a hot poker being shoved up my rear end. But whatever, I had to have proof that we actually met. You'd do the same if you ran into someone famous too.

PS. And speaking of the reach afforded by the Internet, check out the international perception of stay-at-home dads over at Sugar Milk. Both interesting and funny.


Language Barriers In Selling A Timeshare

I believe most would agree immigration ranks as a hot topic among the list of national concerns, which I can understand given where my family lives. Frankly, however, my attitude on the matter has been one of general ambivalence. Don’t get me wrong; it’s something that needs to be addressed, especially considering the impact on employment, schools and health care. By the same token, you won’t find me holding a musket on the Texas boarder or complaining over having to press 2 on my touch-tone pad for English. What I’m saying is the issue requires a common sense approach in developing a workable solution that takes into account the long-term outcomes. Opinions and perception vary, of course, depending on where you go.

When I moved to Chicago, due to my unfamiliarity with the city, I used an agent in locating a place to live, and as we walked up to a street-level flat, the guy stopped me. “Just so you know, the renovations on this place are just finishing up, so there’s going to be a bunch of Mexicans working in there,” he said before adding, “But don’t worry, there’s a white guy keeping an eye on them.”

The seriousness in his warning caused me to chuckle. I worked for a residential homebuilder in Houston, Texas where Hispanics made up 95% of the construction labor in a market that, at the time, churned out over 54,000 homes a year. (Incidentally, I picked that apartment, and after moving in, I got a bunch of extra work done by the crew because of how I treated them.) Those numbers are only a slight indication of what a linchpin the Hispanic populace is to the Houston economy, sometimes to comical extremes.

There are many examples that come to mind, but my favorite is the one where a green helicopter appeared in the skies over the city and its surrounding area. The color of this chopper is significant since it’s the shade used by INS, and as such, a mass panic erupted amongst the Hispanic construction crews all over town. You could almost see their cartoonish cloud-like outlines as they hightailed it off the jobsites, literally leaving behind tools, equipment, and taco (gut) trucks. And the best part? That green helicopter, the ominous signal of a large-scale government sting, turned out to be the newly purchased toy of a local oil corporation whose CEO wanted to take up for a joyride. The end result: the mass exodus shut down housing production for three days.

Inevitably, related experiences trickle down to a personal level as was the case with my stepdaughter Avery, who, along with her older sister, spent much of the summer at the pool. Unlike weekdays, when the girls had their virtual run of things, on weekends the place was packed. To adults, this can be a little uncomfortable when it comes to claiming a spot to sit in, but for the girls, who thrive on social interaction, it’s an opportunity to extend their influence in achieving their goal to become H-town’s most notable socialites.

Both stand a good chance of seeing this dream realized, but of the two, it’s Avery who invariably breaks the ice, which is interesting to say the least. In witnessing Avery’s technique, I half expect her to whip out business cards with her contact information should whoever it is she’s meeting ever find themselves in need of life insurance or a new home. Within seconds, they are fast friends.

At the pool, though, Avery’s ability to ingratiate herself into the company of unknown strangers hit a snag when she locked onto a group of Hispanic children splashing in the shallow end. “Hey, everyone!” she hailed in a voice cuter than any cuddly cartoon character. “I’m Avery.”

Never has a five year-old looked so white (which is ironic since her great uncle—and I’m not joking—is the president of a Central American country). But if Avery’s presence was supposed to mean something to the six or seven boys and girls now looking at her, it didn’t show. They went silent, a hollow confusion on their faces as if Avery had mistaken them for someone else or that perhaps she would start hurling cats at them. Avery, however, interpreted this to mean that they hadn’t heard her over the sounds of the nearby waterfall, and so she adjusted her volume accordingly. “Have any of you ever considered the benefits of owning a timeshare!?”

The mention of a timeshare must have peaked one of the kids’ interest, because he started to speak, followed by the others. No one’s quite sure what was said, but in any case, a dialogue seemed to be underway which normally would lead to another afternoon of pool-side fun, and possibly a few new clients for Avery’s Rolodex. But not this time.

Several minutes into her pitch, Avery's voice drowned out the monotone din of outdoor conversation. “I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU!” She was leaning slightly forward, bent at the hips, clenched fists fixed at her sides. “SPEAK ENGLISH!”

The other children fell quiet again while exchanging nervous glances in anticipation of the impending barrage of cats about to be unleashed on them. The expectant demeanor melted into relief watching Avery stomp off towards her aunt who was sunning herself a few yards away.

With obvious frustration, Avery explained what had happened, and when she had finished, her aunt suggested Avery try again, but this time, using the Spanish words she knew. Avery is by no means fluent, but she knows enough to unload a ’72 Ford Pinto that’s been sitting on the lot for too long.

Her aunt’s advice provided Avery with a renewed sense of confidence. She strode back to the children, her head high, a wide smile stretched across her face communicating that bygones were bygones and what mattered now was a fresh start. Rejoining the group, Avery took a moment to engage everyone with that smile to ensure she had regained their undivided attention. All eyes were on her as she began to speak.

Hola, guys! Uno, dos, tres, quatro cinco, seis. Gracias!”


Friday was Meet-the-Teacher day for parents and students, during which, the girls like to say hi to their old teachers. Their unanimous favorite is Ms. B. who had both Allie and Avery in kindergarten. When the girls saw her, there were lots of squealing and hugs before Ms. B went on to inform us that she would be teaching English as a Second Language to an entire class of Hispanic children. “And I’d like you girls to come read to them,” she said referencing an effective peer-teaching technique used with ESL students.

Watching Avery clapping as she jumped up and down at the idea of performing before a live studio audience reminded me of that day at the pool.

Oh, yes, Avery will be great at that. She's already developed a special rapport with the Hispanic community.


Here's Your Sign

Hey, True Believers.

"Clark Kent" is on assignment, guest-posting at Christopher Johnson's blog, Ca-Joh. Christopher is a wonderful grandparent, philisophical writer and really good cook. Pop on over. If you haven't met Ca-Joh, poke his site and get to know him.


The Tranny

Recently there's been some discussion of me going back to work. It's not necessarily that there's anything solid to bank on, but with the way the girls process things, they do better if they are prepared for such events ahead of time. At the time of the discussion, however, the girls acted really silly about it. They cracked jokes, and flitted around like ballerina-clowns on crack.

"Do you understand what we're saying, girls?" Ash asked.

"Oh ya, mommy! Whoopty hoopty doo!"

Ash I just looked at one another and shrugged. Still, we knew in a few days, the concept of me working again would sink into their tiny, sugar-frosted brains.

Yesterday, while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, the idea took hold in 6 year-old Avery's noggin. She had been playing with some mega-blocks found in the corner reserved for kids, and right in the middle of building a huge tower, she stopped mid-construction. I watched her walk up and set herself down on the couch next to me.

"Yes?" I asked, knowing by the look on her face that something was on her mind.

"Ron, if mommy's at work, and you gots to go to work, who's going to take care of us?"

I smiled and reassured her that we would work something out for her and her sister, although in the back of my brain I wasn't quite sure what the 100% solution would be. Then I added half-jokingly, "Maybe we'll get a nanny." But something about what I said must have gotten garbled in the transmission.

Her face twisted in confusion. "A tranny? What's a tranny?"

I wonder if Mrs. Doubtfire is still available?


Why I "Hate" Danny Evans

Okay, so I don’t “hate” Danny Evans (a.k.a Dad Gone Mad), but I didn’t care from him too much. Back when I first started blogging, when my blog roll consisted of nothing but the A-listers, when I would leave comments on their posts (provided they were still open) hoping like a crazed rock-band groupie they would notice me and invite me back stage. (You have no idea how many times I lied to Pioneer Woman about using her recipes—I can’t even cook.) This was when I first came across Danny’s Mad Dad musings.

I was immediately put off by the lawnmower trashing a white picket fence in the page’s header, mainly this was because I hate lawnmowers in general. The first couple of entries did little to impress me either. Danny was ranting on about something or another—the healthcare system, everything Republicans do, not being able to find a decent parking spot. Hell, I don’t remember; I only skimmed through a couple lines. Oh, and look; he sells T-shirts. Needless to say Dad Gone Mad simply become “Gone,” as in gone from my blog list. (Good. More time for me to leave pithy comments over at my friend Heather B’s place. She takes pictures of her dog… everyday.)

Still, when I heard Danny had written some book called Rage Against the Meshunga-something-or-other, I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it. Why? Two reasons: It was rumored to be funny, and it dealt with male depression. Admittedly, my motivations were somewhat skewed. When someone claims to be funny, I ease my head back and look down my nose at them like a gangsta ready to rumble. Funny is my turf, Mr. Evans, so let’s see what you got. And as far as the his take on depression, I wanted to see if he’d get it right.

Understand, I’ve been through several serious bouts of depression, once after my divorce and again after being laid off, and in both cases I was forced to re-evaluate myself, first as a husband and the second time as a father. The fact that I’ve struggled through depression, or as I call it, “The Big Suck,” on two occasions sometimes leads me to believe I never really got over it to begin with. But then again, I’m also genetically predisposed to it. This means I take medication daily, which pisses me off; however, I’ve made the mistake of believing I’d been fine without it—bad idea as my wife and closest friends can attest to.

I’ve begrudgingly accepted that my psychiatrist’s explanation that, because of my brain chemistry, I have a “mood cycling disorder.” (The technical term is Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, which sounded scary as shit to me which is why I prefer the more sensitive moniker, The Big Suck.) In a nutshell, when I cycle into a depression, like a wide receiver on a fly pattern, I go deep. Thus, when if comes to the topic of depression, I’m always curious to hear if someone has fought it or used it as an excuse.

Given my totally accurate impression of Danny, I didn’t exactly run to the store when his book, Rage Against the Meshugenah, went on sale a few weeks ago; I sort of trotted… at a moderate pace. To my dismay he delivered on both of those rumored claims. Danny really is funny. (I’d still like to take him on in a Yo-Mama challenge though.) What’s more, he nails what The Big Suck feels like—every fringe thought, every fear, every reaction to the treatments and therapy. But that’s not all I found in Danny’s words.

In the time between those two major struggles with The Big Suck, I reached a place where my self-image had never been higher, and I shed many of the insecurities plaguing me since childhood. My confidence grew strong enough to challenge my doubts in a cage-match to the death. Yet, for all those positive results, something has always remained hidden in the shadows, pulling the strings from behind the scenes like Emperor Palpatine before revealing he was a Sith Lord. At a specific spot in the book, that hidden something became clear to me as Danny relayed a conversations with his therapist.

“I feel like I never learned how to compete, and that cost me some important opportunities in life…

My life has been all about taking what’s given to me. Get whatever job you can get instead of going after what you really want. Take what is safe and certain. Settle. Don’t make waves…

There are no life lessons in that for me. What really would have come in handy for me is an education in how to decide and go after what I wanted… That’s the kind of control I’m talking about.”

You know what? Screw you Danny Evans. Screw you for saying this, for expressing it better than I ever could, for making me cry when I read it and then making me trip over the coffee table when I tried to get a tissue.

As Danny revealed more and more, I found myself identifying with much of what he attributed these feelings towards. There was the lack of adequacy and longing to be one of the cool kids, the masking of pain with humor, the tendency to please others, and the oppressive influences of organized religion. (Jews may use guilt as their motivator, but I’ll take that over the Fundamentalist’s hostile threats of an eternity in hell for not voting Republican.)

I’ve dealt with some of these issues already, but altogether, they had put me on that same safe route with Danny. When I lost my job though, circumstances threw up a roadblock forcing me onto a different road, one that is much scarier, but at the same time it’s also more rewarding.

To be a writer has been a consistent dream of mine since elementary school, and currently that’s what I’ve been striving to do. Will I get there? I believe in myself enough to say yes (with a lot more work). Will I ever get paid to write? …F*#k if I know, but it sure as hell would make me feel better. In any case, doing what gives me satisfaction does provide me with a sense that, at 37, I’m living life on my terms instead of settling.

Am I stumping for Danny’s book? Pffft! Yeah, right. I’ve got my own up-coming deal, and this guy’s my competition (sort of). What I will say is that if you suffer from depression, if you know someone who does or you think they do, if you want to laugh, if you find Jewish humor intriguing, if you like nostalgic references to 70’s, 80’s and 90’s pop culture, if you like Neil Diamond, or if you have a heartbeat and can fog a mirror, then reading Rage Against the Meshugenah would be a good idea.

So fine, Danny, I’ll put you back on my blog roll; just know that you’re sharing space with a bunch that may not be house-hold names, but they are A-list bloggers to me. And yes, I apologize for being wrong about you. I’ve learned you can’t judge a blog by it’s homepage, but don’t go thinking I’m going to send you a picture of me wearing one of your T-shirts.

That said, you want to know the real reason I don’t like Danny Evans? He’s a Lakers fan. As a die-hard Celtics supporter that means we’ll never be friends. I gotta a T-shirt for ya, big guy. (And your stupid book is great. Thanks for making it easier to open up on the subject.)


FOX Reality’s House Husbands Are Realistic

Given the recent attention the media has given to stay-at-home dads, the likelihood of a related reality television show was inevitable; so leave it to the minds at FOX to seize upon the opportunity first with their original series, “House Husbands of Hollywood.” The program, which premiers on the FOX Reality Channel August 15th, follows five men who stay at home while their wives hold successful careers in Hollywood.

The guys come from varied backgrounds and represent men at various stages in their marital relationships and, where applicable, their family roles. I say “where applicable” because two of them have no children while the other three are fathers with children ranging from cuddly babies to dramatic tweens.

Meet the cast

The first member of this merry band of house hubbies is Darryl Bell, an actor who 80’s fans will recognize as motor-mouth, Ron Johnson, from the sitcom “A Different World.” It’s heartwarming to see that Darryl has never lost the hope of staring in his own Different World spin-off, given that he hasn’t broken character in over a decade. Darryl is still convincing in his old role as a mischievous, irresponsible wise-cracker chasing after a daughter of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. However, instead of college, Darryl’s now at home, goofing off on a daily basis until Tempestt Bledsoe (a.k.a Vanessa Huxtable) returns from her auditions to scold him for his latest antics. (I’m convinced Dr. Huxtable will be making a cameo to extol fatherly advice to the young, unmarried couple.) Still, Darryl is House Husbands’ comic relief whose quips endear him to viewers.

Danny Barclay is the other cast member without children—that’s a good thing. Quitting just short of becoming a doctor, Danny is now pursuing a more stable career as an actor/inventor. He hasn’t landed a gig yet, but Frat parties will forever be changed by his invention: the “keg-orator,” a mobile refrigerator that allows the world to tap beer from two perfectly chilled kegs when one keg just won’t cut it. While his wife Katherine works as an attorney, Danny spends his time obsessing over a grail quest for an elusive “man-cave” he can call his own. (My wife and I started a drinking game where we sip wine every time “man-cave” is uttered—we were plastered before end of one episode.) Of course, I suppose his search is understandable given how his new bride’s mouth is set to “lethal-whininess” in her complaints about wanting children, a larger house and Danny Boy to finish the list of tasks she emails to him on a regular basis.

Speaking of “honey-do” lists, Charlie Mattera is familiar with the concept since he not only gets one daily, but he also gets 835 phone calls from his wife wanting to know of his progress in completing it. She works as a psychologist who, I theorize must be part of the witness protection program since we never see her. (The official line is that it’s to protect her patient’s privacy, but it sounds like a PR spin to me.) However, that’s nothing compared to the revelation that Charlie did eight years in the pen for robbing banks before marrying Mrs. Pixelface and becoming a father their son. This makes Charlie, hands down, the most intriguing character of the bunch. (An ex-con with a baby and a wife in witness protection? That’s sitcom gold, people!) Oh, and one other thing you might pick up on: Charlie is best friends with actor Ryan O’Neal, a fact referenced almost more than Danny’s man-cave search. With Charlie’s wife literally out of the picture, viewers will get to see a hard-core “bro-mance” in action between Charlie and O’Neal, and it will leave audiences wondering if Charlie dropped the soap more than once while in the Big House. I jest here, and regardless, Charlie is a dedicated husband and competent stay-at-home dad.

Representing the stay-at-home dads with toddlers is Grant Reynolds who is the show’s king of cool. He can simultaneously play with his two year-old daughter and fix motorcycles while demonstrating an equal degree of natural adroitness that allows him to seamlessly bridge traditional gender roles. Married to Jillian Reynolds, the most recognizable wife in the group (she hosts "American Idol Extra" and Good Day LA."), Grant’s self-assuredness minimizes any issues he may have with his masculinity stemming from his parenting duties or from his wife’s semi-celebrity status. Being a former Marine sniper only enhances his coolness factor and gives stay-at-home moms one more reason to swoon.

The final member of the House-Hub Club for Men is former Los Angeles Dodger, Billy Ashley. After a career-ending injury, Billy now pinch-hits for his wife Lisa, making sales calls to promote her popular cosmetic products while also taking care of their two pre-teen daughters. As he talks, it’s clear Billy harbors a justifiable sense of loss over his past as a professional athlete, but it doesn’t overshadow his present role in supporting his wife and taking care of the girls. Like Grant, Billy appears to retain his masculinity with a certain degree of comfort as he hosts cooking demonstrations for Lisa’s friends or takes his daughters to shop for clothes.

Here's what happens

Each episode mimics the typical reality show format, following the guys around while cutting back and forth between personal interview clips. Near the end, the men then get together for a little guy time, engaging in masculine activities like skeet shooting, playing hoops, and drinking beer from Danny’s keg-orator which makes him the perpetual target of their cut-down jokes. These moments are obviously staged, as are others. Such is the nature of reality TV. Even so, the show’s arranged scenarios, for the most part, don’t detract from the overall believability of the characters or the issues at hand.

For example, there is the tension between Grant and Jillian over their individual interaction as parents with their daughter. Spending a large part of her day away from her daughter, Jillian looks lost and almost aloof when they are together, a sensitivity further aggravated by Grant’s laid-back familiarity in knowing how to tend to their daughter’s routine needs. Whether this particular drama is over-played for entertainment value or not, it’s still a viable topic many stay-at-home dads and their spouses contend with. But on a larger scale, the show retains a subtle curiosity over the men’s ability to be effective as the primary caregiver. Even childless Darryl and Danny are tasked with baby-sitting duties to see if they will succeed or blow up their respective guinea-kids. (*Spoiler: Darryl does fine. Danny, on the other hand, should be prohibited by federal law from procreating out of concern for the well-being of any potential children.)

The Lunchbox's verdict

With FOX’s reputation for raunchy concepts in the reality TV genre, I expected “House Husbands” to be an overly-staged performance from buffoonish, narcissistic Fabios who would perpetuate the Mr. Mom stereotype through their general ineptitude. (Think Paris Hilton as an at-home dad.) The show does over-hype the wives as being diva-esque power-mongers, which isn’t exactly the case. (Nagging and a tad over-controlling would be more apt in some cases.) Still, I found myself pleasantly surprised to see that “House Husbands of Hollywood” does a decent job (at least in the first three episodes I saw) of balancing entertainment without sacrificing the image of competent stay-at-home dads in the process. I give it four out of five cups of beer from the keg-orator.

“House Husbands of Hollywood” debuts on the FOX Reality channel August 15th at 9 PM Pacific (8 PM Central). Episodes can also be downloaded from Hulu.com.


Monday Morning FAIL

Because I failed to complete any of my writing assignments over the weekend, including a post for the Lunchbox. Because I am failing to feel the motivation to be any more productive today. Because it fails to be Friday, I give you... the Monday morning FAIL.

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

"The Jackowski family enjoyed their trip to Disney despite their younger son's participation in the Witness Protection Program."

I invite you to leave your own caption.


Elmo Potty Mouth

I debated over whether to post this or not; I try to provide content with at least some redeeming value of which this video has none. Still, it's funny as hell and caters to my brand of humor which this blog has been in short supply of lately. I'll blame it on "Lois" for introducing it to me, but I gotta say the two of us were laughing so hard we couldn't breath.

Note: You may want to turn the volume down if at work or around the kids. It's not bad per se, but it sure sounds that way.

If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then we come but in despite.
We do not come as minding to contest you,
Our true intent is. All for your delight
We are not here. That you should here repent you,
The actors are at hand and by their show
You shall know all that you are like to know.

- Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Okay, so I thought I'd throw some Shakespeare into the mix to even things out... of course this is the play he did while tripping on acid.



The two weeks of summer with my boys is already a week past, evaporating like late morning fog. We enjoyed our every moment together, and somehow I managed to walk that tenuous line between having fun and keeping them in line. Yet for all the joy, these visits now yield an increasing amount of anxiety and desperation as we come to the end of trip. All three boys begin exhibiting distinct changes in their behavior. They becoming clingy and shadow me like mini-bodyguards until the last kiss and hug before closing their mom’s minivan door. Pressing against the windows, they wave goodbye, and I wave back as if we were all buddies from camp.

I hate these moments when they have to be returned—a word I despise for its cruel association with the concept of taking merchandise back to the store for a refund, the only difference being no refund exists for me. Instead, all I’m left with is two weeks worth of memories that I have to make last for the remaining fifty in the rest of the year.

That’s when I allow the lump in my throat to grow so large it literally chokes me out of retribution for suppressing it during the past few days. I can’t allow my emotions to bleed through for the boys to witness since it will only elicit a similar reaction in them. The situation is difficult enough without me adding to it.

A month back, I scraped together the resources in order to be present for my oldest son Noah as he had his tonsils removed. After telling him I’d be there, the mixture of surprise and relief in his reaction told me how much this meant to him. “Thanks, Dad!” he said. The quick visit also meant being with the younger boys, Harrison who’s seven and four year-old Sawyer. Even though it was Noah’s surgery that brought me up there, it didn’t overshadow the significance of our all being together unexpectedly, and at no time was this more evident then when I had to leave.

“I miss you more than you know, Daddy,” Harrison burst out sobbing. I sunk to my knees and hugged him close. “Daddy misses you too,” I said into his ear, while knowing that words hold less reassurance for a child than do actions. “Don’t worry. We’re going to be together again. Just keep praying like I said to.” Looking over his shoulder, I noticed his mother observing from across the room. Her presence helped me keep my emotions in check despite the overwhelming desire to do otherwise. I vowed never to shed a tear in front of her ever again—one of my many resolutions wrought from the divorce.

Parents tell of the difficulty in leaving their crying children at a daycare or with a sitter, but to walk away from my son at that moment—the both us unsure of when we would see each other again—made me want to vomit. It was this earlier farewell that haunted me with the awareness our goodbyes after two whole weeks together would be exponentially worse. I was right, and a couple nights before the trip back, this realization hit the boys.

It was right after lights out for kids. I stepped into the shower, glad for a few minutes of peace and quiet from my boys and two stepdaughters. Five kids, no matter how much you love them, can wear you down. “Honey, I think you’re needed downstairs,” my wife said, poking her head from behind the bathroom door. When I reached the basement, I found Harrison crying as he lay curled up into a ball on top of the bed. Standing next to him, Noah repeated he didn’t mean to do it, referring to his accidentally kicking Harrison out of bed. Noah looked worried, expecting me to chide him, but I already knew the situation had nothing to do with the surface evidence. Even so, I asked Harrison what was wrong.

“I miss you,” he coughed through snot and tears. His admission triggered Noah to break down too, as he ran over and threw his arms around my neck. It took more than half an hour of my staying with them before they calmed down enough to fall asleep. Nestled between them I listened to their innocent breathing while conflicting emotions raged inside of me—the satisfaction of being there for them as their father, and the guilt of knowing that it’s my living away from them that’s causing their hurt.

The next morning Noah and Harrison were disappointed that I was gone when they woke up, and it spurred them to grasp as solutions that extend being together. “Can we call Mom and ask for another week?” I already knew the answer. I had asked her for three weeks this past spring and she turned me down. Even though the court orders dictate that I’m authorized custody of the boys for a month and a half, she always manages to come up with an excuse as to why it’s a bad idea, and I always give in, not wanting to incur retaliation from her in other matters involving the boys.

It was foolish of me to give the boys permission to ask for extra time on the spur of the moment. Doing so put her in the position of being the “bad guy”, but my judgment had been weakened by the residual feelings from the prior night and the crushing unfairness of having limited access to the boys—my boys.

By Noah’s tone, I could tell how the conversation was playing out, and I held out my hand for the receiver. I felt stupid for not talking to their mom beforehand in order to explain the situation. An apology was the first thing out of my mouth. Still, it had no effect, and I kept silent as she exercised her talent for beating dead horses into Elmer’s glue.

“And stop telling the boys you’re going to move here,” she ordered. “You’re just giving them false hope, and I’m tired of dealing with it.”

The gall of this caused an instinctive reaction in me counter to my normal compliance. “No,” I replied, pausing long enough for the resoluteness to catch her off guard before I went on. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but of ‘when’ I move back there. And it’s not wrong for them to have hope. They need to learn that sometimes the things they hope for don’t happen right away, and they shouldn’t ever give up on it.” Every time the subject of my return comes up with the boys, this is a lesson I try to instill in their minds, and I reiterated this with their mother who abruptly announced that she need to get off phone.

My indignity over this stems from a fundamental belief that hope shouldn’t be denied to anyone, least of all a child. Worse still, is to withhold that hope because you can’t bear to deal with a child’s disappointment. Sure, our hopes may never come to fruition, but that’s not a reason to give up. There have been so many moments during the past two years when the idea of moving closer to my children seemed hopeless, and yet, for me to give up—to never reassure them that being together would happen—this resignation of my belief would only signal that I didn’t care about them, that it wasn’t worth it to keep trying.

As of now, no solid plan or timeline exists for a return to Chicago. I scour the area for job postings, while my wife stands ready, willing to leave her dream job and yank the girls from school in the event an opportunity does arise. There have been nibbles, but nothing solid. Every resume I send off is like yelling into the dark and then straining against the void to hear the faintest of replies. Month after month of this has worn me down to the point of watching Oprah, praying she would magically call out my name and make all our family’s dreams come true.

A while back, I began to wear a Chicago Cubs baseball cap—not because I’m a huge fan per se, but because it’s synonymous with an underdog who keeps slugging away in the hopes of a championship. How many years has it been now? And that’s exactly what I want my sons to see—that to maintain hope you have to keep swinging no matter what you’re told.

Me and my boys - Summer 2009

Note: I avoid writing about my former wife for a number of reasons. Today, however, I’m breaking that rule for right or for wrong. Understand, my intent is not to demonize her, but rather, to provide context for the purposes of this post. If you think this unfair of me, I would be the first to agree with you. There are many good things about her, but the emotional rift is too great to be breached in order for us to focus on effectively co-parent together. This too is something I hope that will change one day.

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