Why I "Hate" Mommy Bloggers

So I'm waiting to get a haircut and flipping through a parenting magazine when, there it was: another ode to the mommy bloggers article. Well, isn’t that just special. This is the same thought I had last month perusing Babble's list of the Top 50 Mommy Bloggers, and it’s the same thought I always have when somebody writes another oo-la-la feature about the power of moms with Internet access. Listen up sisters. I am dad (with DSL). Hear me roar.

I hate mommy bloggers and their flowery, eye-catching designs; their quaint recipe suggestions; their useful tips; and the pictures of their perfect kids. I hate the way they can get away with interjecting cuss words or discussing sex and come off sounding classy at the same time. I hate that they can write complete exposés about what terrible moms they are and everyone hails them as “Parent of the Year.” Plain and simple, I hate mommy bloggers for what they are doing to us guys.

I don’t think these ladies realize the awkward position they have put us dad bloggers in: men on the opposite end of the gender equality divide. Who would have thought that could ever happen—and in a parenting-related matter no less? Not me. But let’s be honest, this would have never happened if advertisers hadn’t been so quick to recognize the mommy blogger’s potential to influence household buying patterns.

When the makers of an experimental, titanium-alloy infant car seat want a competent, respected person to endorse such a product to the targeted demographic, who do they turn to? Mommies. That’s not really fair to us dads. I mean, not only could we give that doohickey a thumbs up, we could also go all Tim the Tool Man and add a few modifications to it as well. (What mommy would ever think to actually improve a product via the addition of tank treads?)

Oh that’s right, not every company is ignoring us dads. At least the good people at Sony value our opinions, sticking us with the gadget beat and all. Hellooo. How sexist is that? I’m betting La-Z-Boy, Frito Lay, and the makers of gout medication won’t be far behind.

Moms forget that our masculinity chafes at the mere thought of being beat by girls at anything, but they shouldn’t be so smug. 2010 is supposed to be the year of the daddy blogger according to social media experts like Global Digital Practices VP, Jessica Smith (and "Jessica Knows"). So move your sweat-pant-wearing butt out of that chair in your kitchen/office piled high with exotic eight-slice toasters, German-engineered vacuums, and self-changing baby diapers. This brother needs to make some of that mad parent-blogging money for himself. You know it’s hard out there for a pimp …and by "pimp," I really mean pimp in the sense that I will pimp erectile dysfunction remedies on my site if it means some traffic and little attention.

It’s because mommy bloggers overshadow us, that we dads have had to resort to desperate self-promotion. Some of us dad bloggers are killing ourselves bragging about how great our sites are—the unique visitor counts, the prestige we’ve earned, the brands who should swoon over us—all to make sure everyone realizes who’s their daddy …blogger. In a man’s world there’s nothing wrong with a little chest-thumping in a pick-up game of street-ball; so there’s no reason for us to act any different in the blogosphere. (In your face, mommy bloggers!)

Come on, we’re guys. This is how we operate. Trust me; a little bravado goes a long way in covering up mediocre writing, disingenuous fatherly posturing, and the massive amount of Google Ads pocking our landing page to such an extent that the computer screen appears to have measles. Sure, the majority of dad bloggers are actually really nice guys, but nice guys who are the genuine article finish broke. (It’s the eye of the blogger / I’m the cream of all sites / Rising up to the challenge of my rivals)

For dads who want to make bank, this is a competition. It’s a blog-eat-blog world, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about blogging from mommies, it’s that it’s all about the Benjamins. No? It sure doesn't seem that way when moms and marketers get together at their fancy little conferences. (I hear it can get quite catty.) But if that’s not the case, then thank you very much, ladies, for misleading us with that false perception of our own fabrication.

I just find it hard to believe that the mommy blogger’s great leader wasn’t thinking about ad revenue whilst clacking away at her computer, spilling all those emotional beans about her personal struggles with postpartum depression. I can almost see her there in 2004, rubbing her hands together at the sight of the first paid ad on her blog—the initial step in an elaborate plan aimed at achieving financial independence as well as the power to boss around appliance companies at will. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the honesty and authenticity of her content, nothing whatsoever.

Don’t be coy. Everyone knows who I’m talking about. If I was to ask, who is arguably the most influential mommy blogger of all time, ninety-five percent of mom bloggers would trip over themselves like old maids catching the wedding bouquet as they shouted out Heather B. Armstrong’s name. And of the remaining five percent, I suspect that, just like pubescent boys surveyed about masturbatory proclivity, they’d be lying to say otherwise.

Well Dooce, you can’t fool me with the façade of your self-deprecating humor that you use to charm the masses. Underneath I know it’s your version of Madonna faking an English accent. Isn’t it ironic, though, that your scheme helped usher to our cultural forefront throngs of mothers, isolated in their parental responsibilities and in need of connection. It’s because of you that these women now feel empowered with a voice in a community that can be heard beyond cul-de-sacs and cubicles. And all that womanly interaction on an emotional level, the very underpinning for human bonding, is now facilitated on a mass scale through blogging, thus producing a sense of solidarity, a solidarity that has translated into tangible influence. Pffft! Whatever. Guys can bond too. It’s just a little difficult to chest bump through our monitors.

That’s okay. One day our Phoenix will rise from the gigabytes and lead us daddy bloggers to prominence. He will be our Alpha-Blogger, complete with photogenic dogs and a complete mastery of the Mormon language. He will be hairy and muscular, holding a toddler in his arms and brandishing a martini made from the Absolut vodka he endorsed on his blog the day before. To the media, he will be the very image of modern fatherhood. But until that day, we will blog on, fighting for our rightful share of ad and endorsement revenue, content to let Jon Gosselin, the Balloon Boy’s dad, and every other goofball father on television twist our credibility as a parent from “Father Knows Best,” to “Father Knows Squat.”

Hey, I don’t like it either that these TV dirt-bags define fatherhood in the eyes of the masses, but what are us daddy bloggers supposed to do—ignore making money and use our sites and our writing to set the bar higher for all fathers? You think that just because mothers have successfully used their sites to sway major corporations and to bend the government’s ear, dads can use their blogs to change how fathers are portrayed by the media and entertainment industries? …As if! Who do you think we are—mommy bloggers?

See, this is why I hate mommy bloggers. I hate them for defining their credibility through honest content rather than making a buck. I hate them for empowering themselves to change misperceptions and in doing so, proving to dads that we can do the same thing to change the media’s stereotype portrayals of us. But most of all, I hate them for all they’ve legitimately achieved and for all the praise they’ve rightfully earned. (God knows they deserve it. Thanks to those of you who have set the standard of integrity and quality for us daddy bloggers to work towards.)

This post was a Five Star Friday selection

Five Star Friday

This post brought to you by the community at Dad Blogs and their Fatherhood Friday series.

Mommy Blogger Mug Photo courtesy of Megan at the Velveteen Mind

We Can Blog It badge courtesy of Kelby Carr

Jon Gosselin photo courtesy of... ehhh [shoulder shrug]


A Glass Of Sugar Milk With John Cave Osborne

One of the goals I established at the beginning of the year for the Lunchbox, was to promote community. There are a number of other bloggers out there who do a great job of this, one of whom is Matt at DC Urban Dad, and, with his permission, I'm stealing a page out his book by running my version of his Five Questions series (check it out). So, a big thank you to one of the blogging world's most savvy dads.

On this inagural edition of what I am calling, "A Glass of Sugar Milk With ...", I was very lucky to interview John Cave Osborne, author of Tales From the Trips: How Three Babies Turned Our World Upside-Down. John used to be a regional marketing director for a large investment firm before deciding to give it up in order to follow his passion for writing. Not long after, he got married and became a stepfather to a little girl. Then came the triplets--two boys and a girl. In just a year, John went from wild-and-crazy bachelor to instant father, which also made for very funny book. (I was privileged enough to read an advance copy--review forthcoming, but I'll say now, it's a hoot.)

In addition to chasing kids around and writing for his blog (And Triplets Make Six), John also runs his own business. How he does all this, I have no idea, but I'm glad he had the time for this two-part interview. Let's have a Glass of Sugar Milk with John Cave Osborne.

1.You had been a single guy out on his own for a while, then you've got a stepdaughter and triplets pretty quickly. What was the biggest change for you personally and some of the things you had to give up from those single days?

The biggest change was the lack of “me” time. In the “good ol’ days,” I lived with a brown dog in a house that featured a refrigerator that never once contained milk. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Watching three straight football games? No problem.

Late night of carousing? Probably better sleep in.

Spur-of-the-moment, two-night backpacking trip? Sure. Love to.

In the span of thirteen months, I transformed from a carefree bachelor to the patriarch of a family of six. Most people gradually mature into domesticity, but I was hastily grandfathered in out of necessity. So when I found myself on the “other side,” the hardest thing for me to get used to was the five other agendas I had to consider before considering my own.

As far as the things I’ve had to give up? Space constraints and, in some cases, common decency prohibit me from listing them.

2.When did it hit you that you had triplets? Do multiples run in your wife's family?

Multiples don’t run in either of our families.

Expecting triplets is surreal. Intellectually understanding the potential inside your wife’s belly doesn’t mean that you’ve successfully wrapped your brain around the concept. So to answer your question, it took days for it to sink in, but much longer for me to even begin to fathom what it might be like.

That happened around the thirtieth week of Caroline’s pregnancy. My stepdaughter was at her dads and Caroline was on bedrest. I alternated between tending to her and putting together the first (of many) triplet strollers -- the one I like to call The Triple Decker. I rolled it into the bedroom where Caroline and I sat side-by-side in awed silence, staring at the three car seats that were securely locked onto the lengthy, awkward metal frame, finally able to imagine, even if only remotely, what it would be like to be the parents of triplets. Talk about codifying imagery.

Just thinking about that afternoon still gives me chills.

3. Like me you're a stepfather, what's the best thing about being in that role?

For me the answer is simple--getting to be the father of a little girl whom I love to pieces.

From my late twenties through my mid thirties, I was king of little country called Dysfunctional Six Month Relationship. When I turned thirty-five, I began to realize that unless my dating habits changed, there was a significant chance that I would never get married and have children. That realization saddened me because I’ve always wanted to be a great husband and a great dad. Thank God I finally found Caroline. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had broken out of my dating rut and found the girl of my dreams.

During our engagement, I couldn’t wait to be her husband. And I also couldn’t wait to be Alli’s dad.

The greatest thing about my role of stepdad is getting to be the father of a little girl whom I love to pieces. Period.

4. How do you manage to balance running your own business, spending time with your family and writing?

When you talk to people with multiples, most of them will tell you that “balance” is a word that doesn’t fully apply to them. There’s a reason why human beings typically carry just one child at a time. Carrying more than one, simply put, is unnatural. As such, the demands are unnatural, too – especially for the first four years. Balance? Currently I don’t feel like I have much.

My life is all about God, family, writing, work, and friends. Whatever balance I attain is spread among those five things, and probably has more to do with luck than anything else.

I will say that balancing writing with work has become a lot easier since my business partner and I decided to take turns running our company in alternating two-month stints. When I’m “off,” I focus on my blog and matters that pertain to the book. When I’m on? Well, it’s like I have two jobs. I work at our company during the day and I write at night.

5. What's the best and worst parenting advice you've ever received?

I’m not even sure how to answer that b/c I’m not one that runs around swapping parenting tid-bits. I’ve noticed that folks who read my blog as well as many who follow me on twitter naturally assume that I’m this incredible dad. I’ve never once claimed to be such, and don’t necessarily think that I am. Many have falsely assumed that my book is a how-to book on parenting. I would never proclaim to be qualified to dispense such advice. I leave that to folks with the letters PhD beside their name.

But, I can tell you this. My absolute pet peeve is when I run into obsessive, self-consumed, coddling, and overbearing parents. You know, the ones who act as if they’re the first couple to ever have a baby? The ones who treat their infant as if the very survival of planet Earth is directly proportional to their kid’s well-being? Friendly reminder to such folks: you’re like the umpteenth BILLION couple to have a baby. This month. Back in the stone ages, babies were raised in caves, for crying out loud. If your kid misses a nap, eats some dirt, or skins his knee, he’ll be okay. He’s not gonna break. Quit treating him like he might or God will see to it that next time around you have triplets. Try being over-protective then. It’s all we can do to keep our shit together over here. Hell, we’re just happy that we’ve never found one of our little guys juggling steak knives or drinking out of the toilet.

6.Got any pointers for parents of multiples?

It’s baptism-by-fire deal, so anything I could say is pointless. You won’t get it til you feel the burn. That said, there are a few things I feel strongly about.

If you can afford it, get help. If you can’t, seek volunteers. It’s not cheating, and there’s no way you can do it alone.

Get as organized as you possibly can. Organization is key.

That perfection you always strive for? It never existed before, and it sure as hell doesn’t exist now. Let it go and get on with it.

Chaos can be, and often is beautiful.

Hang on for dear life. I hear it relents a bit when they’re four. Caroline and I are halfway home and would be happy to help in any way we can.

Next Wednesday, Part 2: Watch John's cinematic debut and hear about his brush with Ashton Kutcher.


Just Another Manscape Monday: Haiti

This might turn out to be the worst idea I've ever had or I might make it a regular thing where I try to cheer everyone up at the beginning of the week by allowing them to poke fun of me for tweezing, and trimming, and using hair products while also posting a video from Coldplay or similar such uncool bands.

This one's from Coldplay's Hope For Haiti performance. If you'd like to make a donation, you still can at Hope For Haiti Now; donations start as little as $25.

Now, let the hatin' on "Clark Kent" begin. But, before you do here's a shout out to some great Dad Blogs you should become acquainted with:

Carrying a Cat by the Tail

Juggling Eric

Musings From The Big Pink

Dad Logic

PS - I'm still out of town, but will catch up with everyone when I get back. Thanks.


One Of These Is Not Like The Other

Remember that regular game on Sesame Street where they would have you guess which item was different from the other items in the group? No? Okay, well here's a little refresher.

Not too hard right? Okay, let's try another one. See if you can figure out which person in out family does not look like the others in the below chart.

I'll give you a hint. It has to do with the eye wear. Ooo, this is hard even for a monster. If you're having trouble, click on the picture.

Did you guess with all your might? Did you guess it right (One person's not wearing glasses - cough, cough)? In the words of the Cookie Monster, "You so smart."

Programing note: I'm on a trip and will be away from the computer for a few days so it might take me a few days to reply to comments. Be back middle of next week.


Sugar Milk International

Some of you may have already read this already on Sugar Milk's official site, but I'm posting it again here for those who may have not. I feel a little weird about drawing attention to myself like this. Self-promotion is not my thing. Last night, however, as we drove home from the girls' school (they have this really neat program where parents and their kids participate in a writer's workshop together, the end project being a book of collective family stories--I digress) --so, as I was saying, on the way home, my wife reminds me that I'm in the wrong business (writing) if I'm unwilling to promote myself. Whether I like it or not, she's right, and thus, I'm reposting this latest news about the book here.

One of the things that has amazed me thus far about the attention Sugar Milk has received is the international interest. Already, the book has earned mentions in the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, but our neighbors to the north haven't been the only ones.

The Chinese, as it turns out, have an interest too. In the fall of last year, I did an interview with a writer at The Bund Pic--a print and online Chinese lifestyle magazine, comparable to Vanity Fair here in the States.

The young lady who interviewed me asked some very intelligent questions and recently sent me a link to the article. To my surprise, it was a feature article that talked about my thoughts on being a stay-at-home dad along with tie-ins to FOX Reality's Househusbands of Hollywood. (By the way, the show's official web page features a link to my blog - another surprise.)

Along with the cast of the show, were pictures of Sugar Milk's cover and a full-page photo of Allie, Avery and me. (When I showed them they wanted to know when the limo was coming like it does for Hannah Montana.) To see it for yourself, follow this link and then navigate to page 18.

The only problem: I haven't been able to translate the article. Since it's a flash player, I can't run it through Babel's translation page, but I'm working on a solution.

And this isn't the only interview I've been asked to do for a publication in this country. The Chinese version of Men's Health contacted me last month for a story due out soon. One interesting note: during that interview, the writer informed me that Clark Kent's Lunchbox had been banned in China. I'm not sure if this is just a rule about U.S. blogs in general or if it relates to something specific, but in any case I am honored to have been included in these publications.

Sugar Milk's release is March 2010. If anyone is interested in more information, advance review copies or interviews, they can contact Ashley Evans at publicity@sugarmilkbook.com. A number of you have been asking about posting a badge for the book on your own blogs, and those will be available on the official website later today. Thanks everyone for all your support and encouragement. I have been very humbled by it.


I Had A Dream: What Do Our Hopes Teach Children About Their Own Futures?

As a tribute to Martin Luther King, I'm reposting this January '09 essay about the importance of our own dreams and imparting them to our children.

“I have a dream.” Like most Americans, hearing those words conjures images of the Reverend Martin Luther King passionately sharing his vision from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where thousands gathered in solidarity as an expression of their commitment to this dream. To many the inauguration of President Barack Obama, this country’s first African American president, was the symbolic fulfillment of that dream spoken with equal eloquence and determination. I suppose it would be easy to deem the moment as ironic given the ceremony occurred only a day after the national holiday commemorating the birth of Reverend King, but to do so, in my opinion, implies a hint of cynicism, as if the two events took place by intention through the scheming efforts of subversive conspirators with a hidden agenda. “Befitting,” is more appropriate.

Regardless of political ideology or personal bias, there’s still a place within our collective human spirit that can’t help but feel at least a sliver of hope in watching such a dream realized over four decades after it was expressed. Blame the (well-hidden) optimist in me, but my assertion is rooted in a belief that when others succeed, whether we’ll admit to or not, it buoys the faith we cling to of achieving our own aspirations. I am no exception, having aspirations that have followed me since childhood, and although not quite on par with the justice demanded from racial equality, my hope dreams are no less real.

Growing up, my career goals were fairly straightforward, a venturesome archeology professor, a helicopter-flying CIA operative, and yes, a highly-paid mercenary (but with scruples). There were others, but basically they all boiled down to adventure-hero archetypes like those in movies. Don’t ask me why, but at thirteen, the choices stayed the same, but now incorporated the element of being a brooding loner with a secretive past and uncanny intellect that rendered women helpless. By my junior year most of these visions faded. Turns out few colleges, at least within the U.S., offered courses on “Overthrowing Oppressive Third-World Régimes for Profit 101.” Still, even though reality eliminated the majority of my boyhood fantasies, some, like the dark outsider too jaded to love, survived, while new ones emerged to replace the casualties.

Undoubtedly, the strongest of those remaining dreams was to be a soldier. This may seem like an unpopular choice in light of the current state of world affairs, but when your father is a Green Beret who fought in Vietnam, you tend to view things differently. To me, my father was the tangible image of who I wanted to be, and my desire to emulate him never wavered, especially when fostered by the arsenal of wooden guns that he made for me to play with as I wore his old Army gear while carrying out dangerous mission in the woods behind our home. As I got older, that famed beret my dad earned after passing the grueling Special Forces selection course started smirking at me from the shelf where it was displayed. I grinned back. Sometimes, when alone, I would try it on in front of the mirror and practice saluting the image of what I saw as my future.

Walking away from a dream, even for all the best and selfless of reasons, is no less painful as it shrinks in the distance behind you.

Oddly enough, my father openly discouraged my eagerness to join the Army. Why would a father not want his son to follow in the footsteps made on such an honorable path? Ultimately it was of little consequence once he learned after the fact I had enlisted anyway. He simply broke out with the same grin his beret had been flashing at me. It was the first step toward my dream, but one that also elicited two bits of advice from a man who had already been there, get an education and, as a soldier, never marry. I got the education earning an Army scholarship, and a much desired commission as an Infantry officer after graduation. However, I failed to heed his second point of guidance, eventually leading to a crucial decision, and one that I made without regret even though the consequences translated into an abrupt end to my longstanding pursuit. Walking away from a dream, even for all the best and selfless of reasons, is no less painful as it shrinks in the distance behind you.

A short while ago, I read a blog post by an extremely intelligent mother, who outlined ways parents can foster healthy self-esteem in their children. Her points were right on target, and could hardly be argued with. However, there was one item that struck a chord with me dealing with encouraging a child’s aspirations. To illustrate her point, she used the example of her oldest daughter’s desire to become a writer. Even in acknowledging her daughter’s obvious talent, as a practically-minded mother, she found herself wanting to point out the hardships involved in becoming an author along with the suggestion of finding a “real job” as a fallback. Ultimately, the mother held back her initial reaction, offering support instead; but what stood out for me was the phrase, “a real job.”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words “real job” repeated to me, I probably wouldn’t need one today. I’ve spent the majority of my life working these so-called real jobs, but if there’s any dream of mine rivaling that of being a soldier, it has been to be a writer. God only knows why. I was a mediocre student at best, my spelling remains conspicuously atrocious, and it’s more than likely my efforts are hampered by a mild case of “lysdexia.” This general ineptitude probably explains why the idea of a “real job” is floated at me any time I mention a future as a critically acclaimed (and tragically reclusive) author. There is an undeniable logic behind the suggestion, but in all seriousness, I know such advice stems from entirely different thought, fear.

In comparison to “real jobs” with their set hours, established procedures, and, most importantly, steady paychecks, eeking out a living as a writer, an artist, a dancer or any number of “non-real” professions brings to mind images of rag-tag bohemians shivering inside their condemned hovels, eating cold cans of beans purchased with money collected after three hours of panhandling at a nearby convenience store. It’s such scenarios, combined with personal experience, that can reinforce a parent’s conviction they know what’s best regardless of whether their children want to be a Wall Street power broker, or a street mime. At the same time, this well-intentioned mind-set is not limited to only parents.

Growing up, pastors, relatives, career counselors, friends, and just about every other adult that I knew, shared their visions for me as a minister, missionary, politician, professor, basketball coach, nurse anesthetist, and based on the comments left by high school teachers on my recently discovered report cards, a career in the oil industry working as a (dark and mysterious) gas station attendant. Understandably, however, in a community where the economy dictated that a large portion of the populace live paycheck to paycheck, what truly mattered was having a good job, and by good I mean one that actually paid. Dreams were a luxury that didn’t pay car notes and mortgages. Lucky for me at the time, I had the Army to look forward to.

It’s a greater crime, by far, when our own fears prevent us from attaining what we claim to want most.

To solely indict others for discouraging me, to whatever degree, from achieving my ambitions wouldn’t be unfair. At least they were prompted by a fear for my general well-being. It’s a greater crime, by far, when our own fears prevent us from attaining what we claim to want most. Reality may hurl circumstances that shatter our vision, or redirect our course, but to continually ignore blatant opportunities because of self-doubt is almost tragic. Even though I had joined the military, it did nothing to diminish my innate desire to write, and when the Army sent me to college, I felt a pull towards a concentration in creative writing.

Instead, I opted for English Literature, a major possessing all the usefulness of a third nipple, but without the embarrassment from sharing my literary drivel with a classroom full of Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac wanna-be’s. It was a chance lost because of the fears convincing me I wasn’t good enough. Years later, these same fears kept me from accepting an unheard of offer by a Rice University English professor whose writing workshop I had forced myself to take. One evening after class, he approached me with the suggestion to enroll in the master’s program at a nearby school where his friend was a department head who could waive all my entry requirements. This professor told me flat out, my writing was better than that of many second year grad students, but I didn’t believe him. I’d witnessed dozens of students beg this same professor for written recommendations needed for grad school, and yet, with the door wide open, my utter lack of confidence prevented me accepting his generous proposal.

The other evening, my oldest son, Noah, informed me he wanted to make movies, which led to a forty-five minute phone discussion covering topics such as story development, special effects, distribution rights and secondary revenue streams. Even the most mundane details failed to curb my son’s enthusiasm in becoming a filmmaker. Hearing the cogs in his brain turn as he spoke impelled speculation on my other children’s fledgling dreams. Allie wants to sing. Harrison loves animals. Sawyer drools over truck engines, and Avery seems destined to become the vertigo afflicted, stunt double for Jar Jar Binks.

And, how will the path to my goals influence my kid's journey toward their own aims?

At their age, nothing seems impossible. Noah has practically started a film production company without the nuisance of money. Harrison attempts to revive the dead moths he discovers, and Avery believes she will run a profitable coffee plantation in central Africa, employing Care Bears to tend the crops. The innocence in their optimism is endearing, but still, I wondered how long before life ratchets up the degree of difficulty in their pursuits. Will they gain the confidence to ignore conventions and what others, me included, think best, choosing instead to follow their convictions? When odds seem impossible, will they quit, or persist? And, how will the path to my goals influence my kid's journey toward their own aims?

Sometime shortly after my son outlined the milestones in his rise to become a modern day Citizen Kane, reality reminded me how fickle, and yet, how equally complicated the circumstances in our lives can be, threatening my writing dream. To this point, I’ve been able to push past the fears holding me back. Not that they don’t still exist, in fact to a certain extent they are even greater. However, for all the frustration, rejection and impatience there’s a motivation I’ve found in the realization that writing has been the one endeavor I have ever actually had to work for. Most of the successes I’ve enjoyed thus far in life have required very little effort on my part. I say this more out of gratitude than arrogance, but at the same time with less attachment than what I have for even the paltry success earned from all the efforts exerted in a writing career.

The thought of possibly having to abandon that now, even though it’s for all the right reasons, is for me a jagged, dry pill to swallow without water. I will, of course, do what I have to when the time comes. But, by the same token, I never want to tell any of my children I merely had a dream. I’d rather they see me overcome the challenges issued in making my hopes a reality, and in doing so, buoy the faith they might cling to that one day they will attaining their dreams too.

Pictures: 1) Barack Obama's famous Hope poster. 2) My father after being named Soldier of the Month. 3) My father shaking my hand after pinning lieutenant bars on my shoulders at my commissioning ceremony at the Univeristy of Texas. 3) I think I found this posted to my high school diploma. 4)Avery dressed as her version of President of the United States. 5) Harrison with another jar full of bugs that he counts as his friends.


So Help My Bum

Programming note: Aside from this post, I'm being quizzed today by Matt at DC Urban Dad in his Five Questions spot. Find out why I'd be a good fit for the reality show, Jersey Shore.


The other evening Avery walked out the bathroom to the desk where Ashley and I were talking. "My bottom hurts," she announced. "Real bad." This has been an off-and-on problem for Avery, and it's a closely monitored situation since it has some correlation to the fact Avery was born with three kidneys.

Now, three kidneys might come in handy for drinking frat boys under the table at college, or prove convenient when stranded in the orient and strapped for cash, but for a kid this extra organ can reek a considerable amount of discomfort. Infections, stomach pain and incontinence are no fun for anyone especially a six year-old. So when Avery says her bottom hurts, we know it's no ploy for attention.

"I think it needs to be checked," Avery continued, and then, to ensure everyone was clear about their roles, she added, "I was talking to Mommy."

Well of course you were, my dear. Were that not the case, I would have politely deferred to your mother anyway. I really didn't need the clarification, but I felt relieved just the same.

Several minutes later, Ash emerged from the bathroom and informed me Avery had a rash. "It's from not--well, you know, cleaning--"

"Say no more, honey. I got it."

This is Avery's other problem, and one I have a hard time fathoming. Three seconds and done. That's it. Easy-peazy-Japaneezy ...and the roll is sitting right there so you can't forget! But apparently, to Avery, ignoring those few additional seconds is worth the risk.

In past instances when it was just me at home and Avery was having issues in this department, I would station her older sister Allie in the bathroom to ensure that the situation was being dealt with adequately. This proved effective and in time, things returned to normal. (Allie's a godsend for me in this department, as I've mentioned before.)

On the day following the re-occurrence of Avery's rash, I went into the girls' bathroom to blow my nose only to discover there was no paper on the roll. "Typical," I thought before opening the cabinet to grab a replacement, of which, none existed. The momentary pause from this caused me to engage in a little deductive analysis.

How long do you think they've been out, Ron? Well, most likely for a while, given both girls' lackadaisical mentality when it comes to informing us supplies have been exhausted. Of the two, Allie is by far the worst in this area. When that last sheet is torn from the cardboard, I swear she just looks at it a says, "Ehhh, eff it." (She's at that age where children seriously under-value the ability to do things for themselves when an adult can do it for them instead.) In this light, chances were high that this particular roll had run out at least twenty-four hours ago if not longer. Recalling the rough number of times I had watched Avery sprint with her three sloshing bladders toward the bathroom, lead me to make a few assumptions about Avery's current ailment. Hmmmmm.

Minutes later I stood in the middle of the living room where Allie and Avery could see me. "Ladies, can anyone tell me how long you've been without toilet paper?" Neither said a word, but their expressions provided the answer. Allie gave me that same eff-it glance before craning her neck to see the TV behind me, while Avery's large eyes darted all over the room. Had she known how to whistle, it would have been the classic give-away. "Do you think maybe this might be why your bottom is hurting, Avery?"

At that, Ash joined me, and I gladly let her take over from there. Later, I went to the store and purchased enough TP to hold over a battalion of senior citizens packed full of prune-laced bran muffins. Once home, I carried it into the girls' bathroom, asking them to join me as I did.

"Ladies, I want you to both raise your right hands--no, you're other right, Avery." My odd request brought quizzical looks.

"Now repeat after me," I continued. "I--state your name--do solemnly swear... that I will always use the toilet paper entrusted to me... when I am done taking care of my bi' nizz... and should the role be empty... I will replace it with a fresh one... and when no toilet paper can be found... I will ask for more in a timely fashion... and under no circumstances... will I neglect these duties... so help my bum."

I think I'll call it, "The Oath to the Throne."

This post brought to you by the great people at the Dad Blogs community as part of their Fatherhood Friday series. Check it out.


Paranormal Proclivity

Of the vast array of movie genres, horror flicks rank the lowest on my list. If watching teenagers getting hacked to bloody shreds by a chainsaw-wielding psycho from Texas (we have a lot of them here, you know) is your thing, that's cool. But please don't invite me over for BBQ and an all-night TV gore-fest marathon. It's nothing personal, it's just preference.

Listen, I get it. It's not real. That's not blood, it's katsup, and that's not some guy's intestines; it's spaghetti. Whatever. My problem is that after seeing someone hacked up in a life-sized blender, I can't get it out of my brain. The image keeps looping in my mind over and over like a needle skipping on a record that never stops playing.

When I young, maybe six or seven, I remember a TV commercial for a horror movie that showed a girl around my age being pulled through a wall by tangle of flailing, bloody arms. Another I recall was of a woman cautiously investigating a noise inside a closet, and as she--BAM! Something yanks her in and you hear a deathly scream. Thirty-second clips, that thirty years later still have me eying sheetrock with suspicion.

In my later life, I recognized the facade behind terror, and even managed to watch a few of the classics. Scream made me laugh, especially when Drew Barrymore answered the phone. And that Freddy dude with the bad skin? I really couldn't blame that guy for slicing up those kids, given that hideous, woolly sweater he had to wear. After a while, that sort of chafing can make anyone want to don a leather, glove with Kinzua knife affixed to the fingers and start swinging away.

Of course, during that era, most horror film seemed to have a ridiculous quality about them as illustrated by the one I came across about a killer snow man*. The back of the VHS box showed a picture of a classic snow man complete with a top-hat, scarf and corn-cob pipe trying to kill a naked woman in her shower. (I'm guessing the water heater was on the other side of the house and in the time it took for the water to get hot, Frosty used his carrot nose on her as a shiv.) I can't remember if I take my medication from one morning to the next, but a homicidal snowman reminds me never to drop my drawers until steam's billowing up from behind the shower curtain.

In recent years, torture porn became all the rage. Yeah. I don't think so. Running a power drill through someone's eyeball, and spooning out their heart with a melon baler while they are forced to watch--are you kidding me? I've just confessed to the impact a snowman has made on my daily routine, can you imagine how I would act after watching one of these films and then walking into a Home Depot or Crate & Barrel? I read an article where audiences were actually throwing up in the theaters during these films, and, get this, the directors took it as a compliment. I should mail them an envelope brimming with my yak and sign it, "From your biggest fan."

Thus far, I've only mentioned what a mere image can do to me. That's bad enough, but if you really want to carve an indelible mark into my brain, add somewhere on the film's poster or in its theatrical trailer the phrase, "based on a true story." I had vowed to never watch anything with that claim attached to it, but when an old girlfriend asked me to watch The Amnityville Horror with her, I agreed. (With Adam and Eve it was an apple; with me it's horror movies). I may have cracked jokes and poked fun through the entire ninety minutes of spooky mayhem, but the overriding thought that kept repeating itself was, "This crap really happened. This crap really happened. This crap really happened." If evil ghouls can turn Ryan Reynolds (who's plays a stepfather no less) into an evil madman, that's plenty freaky to me.

To those in marketing, touting horror films as being based on actual events might make for good hype, but to me, it strips away that lone bit of ammunition I need for combating my hyperactive imagination. In such cases I can no longer tell myself, "Hey Big Guy, that crap's just CGI and raspberry Kool Aid." No, instead it's something closer to, "Holy Polyester! That sh#t's real ...and they're coming for you next!" Then I can't sleep for days, which all seems plain stupid on my part, and it probably is except for the fact that I actually do believe in ghosts. Now, I realize everyone has their own opinions on the topic, and I respect that, but we can save debates for later. Yes, I believe they exist which can terrify the Honey Nut Cheerios out of me, but not as much as one other entity--demons.

Again, not wanting a debate here, and feel free to call me crazy. But, unlike ghosts, which I've had no contact with, I have met several perfectly sane people who themselves have experienced demonic happenings. None of them were possessed, but one had been involved in an exorcism; the rest had gotten caught up in calling out to demons thinking it would be cool. (They don't now.) I'll skip the details, but their stories were compelling enough to forge my certainty that demons exist.

So, that all said, imagine my reaction the other night when Ashley held up a red and white Netflix envelope as she announced with unrestrained glee that we had something good to watch that evening.

"Yeah," I answered, catching her excitement. "What is it?"

"Paranormal Activity," she replied in a voice that sounded ominously like Vincent Price's.

For the next hour and twenty-six minutes I downed enough Absolute and soda to kill a 300-pound Ukrainian mob boss, hoping it would help me to forget the evil dealings of a demon plaguing a typical suburban couple. I had heard the movie was scary-really scary, but a Costco-load of Depends Undergarments couldn't sop up the results of what certain scenes caused me to do--proverbially speaking of course. Somehow, though, I managed to survive through to the ending... and the alternate endings... and the bonus footage. Even so, I knew the worst night of sleep was soon to be upon me. (Turn down your speakers and shush off the kids if you're brave enough to click on the link. I won't even link to the alternates, they are so gruesome.)

Theatrical Trailer

As I predicted, every half hour, my eyes popped open to search the room for blurry dark masses hovering in the air and cloven footprints in the carpet. At one point, the hair on the back of neck stood up when I felt a strange force pressing against my leg, but it only turned out to be Ash kicking me to the edge of the bed again. And then there was the nightmare.

I dreamed I was in this large house. There was no furniture, and everything--the walls, the doors, the carpet--was a colored in various shades of pink. Running from room to room, I could tell something--something unseen--was chasing me, and no matter how much I tried to get outside, no escape exit existed. Finally, I ended up cornered in a large walk-in closet where, on the floor lay a pair of pink high-heeled shoes trimmed with equally pink feathers. Seeing them filled me with an intense and unexplainable dread. Then I snapped awake.

When I told Ash about it the next morning, she agreed my dream was weird. "I wonder what the deal was with the shoes?" she asked aloud.

At that moment, the TV caught both of our attentions. Allie and Avery had been watching High School Musical 3 and there, on the screen was a brief shot with one of the characters wearing shoes very similar to those in my nightmare.

Want to know which type of movie ranks just above horror films in terms of creeping me out?

* They actually made a sequel for the snowman movie in 2000 titled, Jack Frost: Revenge of the Mutant Snowmen.

PS. My aversion to the paranormal is ironic given that I've just started working on a young-adult novel in which ghosts make up a major portion of the plot.

PPS. This was supposed to be a 500-word post, but as you can see, it become a monster of it's own. Sorry.


2010 ...And I'm Already Behind The Times

If anyone were to deem me slow, I couldn't dispairrage the claim since it would apply to me on so many levels. I mail birthday cards out the day after the candles have been blown out; I fail to grasp the punchlines of most jokes until 3am of the next day; and I am easy pickin's for time-share salesmen. So, given that we're one-third of the way into 2010, it should come as no surprise that I'm already behind schedule in getting to this post about the new year. (At this rate, it'll take until April 2011 before I address the part about it being a new decade--that's how I roll ...like a stone covered in moss.)

Looking back at 2009, I could comment on a number of events both universal and personal: the ills of the economy, the two wars with no clear exit strategy, my first wedding anniversary to my wonderful wife, highlights of my kids growing up--the list goes on. It's been a happy year, a painful year, an interesting year, a weird year, a sad year, and overall, a worthwhile year.

2009 provided me a fresh array of challenges, the lessons of which, I am excited to use in facing what lies ahead in 2010. The past, both the good moments and the bad, are beyond changing, but they can be used in shaping future goals.

Last week, my wife and I hashed out our individual and family goals for the year, and when we finished, I thought it would be good to establish some objectives for my blog. When I first started up the Lunchbox, there was no clear purpose behind it and no audience to help shape it. Nearly three years later, that's no longer the case, and am I truly humbled by the readership. Blogging has become a big part of my life, big enough to warrant a plan for the future. So, this is what I came up with:

1. Improve on promoting community with other other bloggers: Some of my ideas on this include having more posts that feature other bloggers through guest posts, and interviews along with increased use of social media to promote others.

2. Streamline the look of the Lunchbox: Part of this has to do with #1 in that the cleaner look will allow me to include more people in my blogroll. (I'm still not done cleaning it up. If you can't find yourself, let me know. I lost everyone when I reformatted it last week.)

3. Remain true to the readership: Last year, I had a ton of posts reviewing products, and, based on traffic, that didn't go over well. Plus the new FCC regulations in this area, to me, signifies a future of greater governmental involvement with bloggers and corporate sponsors. So, no more product reviews on playground equipment and lawn fertilizer. The lone exceptions to this will be books, television shows, and movies as well as stuff from people I personally know.

And that's it. Three is simple, and I can remember them five months from now. On the flip side though, three may be simple but that doesn't make them easy to make good on.

I planned to have all this ready within the first week of January, and then the world got crazy. I was approached about job back in the corporate world, a good friend asked me to go in on a major business venture, and although Sugar Milk might be in production, it takes twice the effort to market it as it did to write it. Add to this the new book I've started on, along with all the day-to-day family stuff, and my above goals are going to be easier said than done. But I'm going to work towards those ends, because it's important.

And one side note: Many of you have been checking in with me on my health issues (no, the other stuff besides the vasectomy), which I've greatly appreciated, but I've been remiss in posting an update for the larger audience. Thus far through all the CAT Scans, the neurologist was able to rule out the potential for an aneurysm (my biggest concern), narrowing it down to either seizures or extreme migraines (with migraine aura). In order to make an official diagnosis the plan was for me to have my brain patterns recorded by wear this turban-like contraption on my head for three days. The only problem to this, however, is the insurance. Even with our deductible met, the cost for this test obliterated our budget, and I had to put it off. In the meantime, I have to manage things through lifestyle changes--better diet, more sleep, regular exercise--which I had planned on following anyway in order to better manage my bouts with depression. I've still had a few more episodes, but overall the lifestyle changes seem help, as they have been less frequent and lower in intensity.

I'll continue to post updates, but for now, it's business as usual. It's a new year, one I'm looking forward to, even though I'm already a little behind.


Technical Difficulties Or Whatever

This is just a quick post to let everyone know I've been revamping the Lunchbox for the new year, so it's kind of a mess at the moment. If you can't find things, or you are dismayed because your link isn't in the blog rolls like before, never fear; I haven't crossed you off my list. Unlike all the king's men with the Humpty Dumpty conundrum, I should have everything back together again soon. But on a cool note, that red bar thingy at the bottom of the page is hella cool. It combines a search function, recent posts, a share function (for FB, Digg, etc) and Twitter all in a compact space. Thanks.

PS. After many numerous inquiries, I am changing comment services. I agree my old one was a pain.

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