The Big Day! It's Official


Today's the big day--the official release of my book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can't Afford Vodka. A year and a half of scribbling and editing; elation and discouragement; doubt and confidence; and now it's done ...sort of. Writing the book is the easy part. Marketing and promoting it takes about ten times more energy, but I'm thinking about that now. No. I'm thinking of something else: perspective and gratitude.

This morning, Allie walked up to my desk and said, "I'm the luckiest girl in the whole second grade. I'm a older sister. I'm a younger [step]sister. Aaaand I'm in a book."

Hearing her say that so sincerely put things in perspective for me, and it made me tear up. Without her, Avery, Noah, Harrison, Sawyer, and my dear wife Ashley, none of this would have happened. None of it. I'm the luckiest dad in the world because I have a family that made a major dream in my life come true. They have supported (and endured) me for a long time while never wavering in their enthusiasm. (The picture below was drawn by Avery for me to have as a bookmark.) Even today, both the girls are wearing Sugar Milk t-shirts and little badges to school today in celebration of my accomplishment. I didn't even ask them to (but I coached the hell out of them on giving a sales pitch to their teachers).

My sons have been supportive too, expressing their excitement over every mention of the book in magazines, papers and the radio. They think it very cool, and are heavily involved in my next book project, providing input on how they would solve ghost mysteries at their age. (It's a young adult novel series focused on three little brothers, but that's all I can reveal at the moment.) Next week I get to see them for Spring Break and they are accompanying me as I do some research for the book.

But if there's anyone that's endured more than the rest, it's my wife Ashley. She has read, re-read, and then re-read every version of Sugar Milk's manuscript to the point she won't even pour a bowl of corn flakes for breakfast. She has had to put up with my frustration induced bad moods. She has had to keep me focused on the task, and most grueling of all, she has had to go to a job day in and day out while I sat at home pounding this thing out. I am not an easy person to live with sometimes, yet Ashley has extended a grace to me that I can never repay. All I can say is, "I love you honey. You made this happen. The circumstances have been no picnic, but with you my life has meaning. Thank you."

And while I'm doling out the thank you's, I'd also like to express my sincere gratitude to the many readers who continue to come back and read my drivel, and to all my blogging friends who have done the same even though I do a lousy job of keeping up with your blogs. Many of you have posted links and marred up you site layouts with Sugar Milk badges. You've purchased the book already and said many kind things. Without your support, I just be a guy with several hundred copies of a book I couldn't give away at a methadone clinic. Instead, you've been more than instrumental in helping to achieve a goal of exceeding 500 sold copies prior to release (almost there). Thank you.

Speaking of which, one of the biggest supporters of Sugar Milk has been John Cave Osborne, author of Tales From the Trips: How Three Babies Turned Our World Upside Down. Today he's running Part 1 of his interview with me on his site. Please stop by; the man asks good questions.

Later today I'm going to hit some bookstores to see where it's at. I've been told it's in "limited distribution," meaning some stores will have it and some won't--not till I hit the 500 sales mark anyway (which I think I'm close to). So, if you're walk in and don't see a copy, you may have to order it. A couple independent stores I'd like to give a shout out to are Tattered Corners in my hometown of Meadville, Pa and to Katy Discount Books in west Houston, both of which will be sponsoring book signings. Keep following here at the official website SugarMilkBook.com for details on these and other events.

Before I sign off, let me say one more time, thank you ...and if you haven't purchased a copy yet, I'll toot my horn and tell you it's worth the read--that and it's only $11.50 at amazon.com. Go get a glass and con a friend into doing the same.




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My Kids On Drugs... I Mean Sugar

This is pretty much how the girls act once they get off the bus after school. It's like they did lines of the white stuff... sugar.

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A SAHD Resume

This week NPR ran a story on Morning Edition concerning the topic of stay-at-home dads (SAHD) returning to the workforce (“Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work”). The root issue of the piece written by Yuki Noguchi speculated as to if SAHDs who are considering re-entering the workforce should represent their time as the family’s primary caregiver. The segment featured several SAHDs at a playgroup in the DC area, all of whom sounded like competent fathers who recognized to varied degrees the upside to their time at home. (There were downsides too—namely poop and dishes.) Despite the positives benefits of their role, it was clear a few of the dads planned on returning to work once the economy improved. The question implied then was how to deal with their time off in a job search.

Opinions differed. On one side, there were those who felt, yes, they should list their time as a domestic engineer on a resume to explain their time away while highlighting parallel job skills like managing priorities and multitasking. Some took a more creative approach employing strategies such as weaving their old job duties with their current ones or referring to themselves as consultants. But others, like The Daddy Shift’s Jeremy Adam Smith thought employers would perceive this time off as a liability, something mothers have had to deal with for years.

The point was a valid one, and it was echoed by @NYCityMama in a Twitter conversation that ensued as a result of the article. “It would be interesting,” she tweeted, “to follow dads returning to the workforce to see if they receive the same backlash as women.” I’m wondering the same thing. From my prior experience on the corporate management level, I can’t tell you the number of times I sat in meetings where other managers would grumble about a mother-to-be taking maternity leave. In some cases where said mother was a less than stellar performer, her time away was viewed as an opportunity to get rid of her.

Of course such a practice is unlawful. Having a family should never be a reason for discrimination by a current or potential employer. Yet for companies that are productivity-focused and not people-focused this sort of practice is widely prevalent. (It’s happened to my wife more than a few times.) So if it’s unfair to penalize a woman, how is it fair to hold being a stay-at-home against men who are going to back to work? The short answer is, it’s not.

And there was another dimension alluded to by @coffeewithjulie when she remarked that in some ways it may actually be tougher for fathers to return to work than women. Because of the traditional perspective commonly held to by conservative companies, women are expected (sometimes begrudgingly as mentioned earlier) to take time away from their careers in order to raise families; whereas men are not. As such, I’m curious how employers will view men who have been SAHD, and what sort of impact will this have on these dads’ potential to obtain job? If a position came down to a better qualified SAHD and a less qualified father who was never laid off, which of the two would be selected? (Maybe hiring managers should acquaint themselves with the dollar value of an at-home dad. Click here for a fun exercise.)

Like @TessasDad and @EdAtHomeDad who also were a part of the "tweeter-sation," I would prefer to remain at home. @EdAtHomeDad loved the fun of nap time and @TessasDad was about to witness his daughter’s first steps, something he may have missed otherwise. We fathers can’t always be there for such moments, but it does underscore to some degree how important it is for us to be there for our children as much as possible. As a SAHD, that’s a benefit I appreciate, especially given all the unique needs my three sons and two stepdaughters have.

Still, unless I sell a million copies of my book (…bwahahahahaha! …haha …ha …ahhh), I will have to return to work (outside the home) soon in order to keep up my financial responsibilities and the various needs of my family. This is something of a Catch-22 because on one hand I am providing for my family while at the same time to do so compromises their emotional needs by not being able to focus on them the way I can now. (And seeing as how we are forced to be a dual-income household, neither can my wife.)

I only share all of this as a way of putting into context the personal implications of this issue for me. I know there are many other dads who are in similar situations and have questions as to how to represent their SAHD duties on a resume. I’ll admit that mine reads “Real Estate Consultant & Freelance Writer, 2007 – Present,” with no mention whatsoever of multitasking, the dishes, lunches and laundry.

Based on my experience, “CEO of Household Operations” doesn’t play well in executive-level job searches where interview boards nitpick every detail through three rounds of interrogation (read corporate water-boarding) only to pass on you because three of the five members of the hiring committee thought your power tie was too red. (If they thought that was bad, they should see my credit score.) Still, there’s a lot about conflict resolution, risk mitigation, and team building that has come from my being at home, and I could make it sound real official-like.

That all said, I’d like to know is how other SAHD’s returning to work intend to explain their time as the family’s primary caregiver? Thoughts in general?

Brought to you by DadBlogs and their weekly segment Fatherhood Friday Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs






Copies of Sugar Milk are available through Amazon for under $12. Click Here For Your Copy.






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"Two Simple Words" from DC Urban Dad

Matt Haverkamp of DC Urban Dad is one of the classiest daddy bloggers I've ever met; it's a quality that has earned him the respect of a large number of those in the parent blogging niche. Matt understands that blogging is more than one person; it's about community--just another reason for that all that admiration. But it may also have something to do with the obvious love for his wife and sweet little Mini-Kamp (check out what's the largest tag in his word cloud). Oh yeah, and the guy was in a movie with Tom Berenger. Matt's a busy man these days, and we're lucky to catch a glimpse of him in between the cheetah flips he's been doing at a 100 mph through his back end.

"Two Simple Words"

Life's busy.

Life's complicated.

Life's stressful.

There are bills to pay. Mortgages that loom large. Decisions to make. Conference calls. Meetings. Deadlines. Obligations.
Committments.

It's hard not to get swallowed up by all the madness around. I try and try, but find sometimes that the current is just to strong. And I just give in and shut down.

Then out of nowhere come in two simple words. When separated they have very little meaning and even less power. But when brought together by the small voice of a 21 month old, they become a force; a lifeline back to reality......

"Hi Daddy"

What's makes this so sweet is that she has no clue to her power. She has no idea that behind the curtains there is a mad world awaiting
her. All she knows is that she loves me and needs me in her life.
She misses me and just wants to say hi.

It's those 2 simple words that make this journey so much fun. It's those 2 simple words that make all the aggravation and stress seem worth it. Those 2 simple words are fast becoming my drug of choice.






Copies of Sugar Milk are available through Amazon for under $12. Click Here For Your Copy.

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"Sit, Book, Read" The Demands of A Real Man With A MiniVan

I am very happy to introduce you to Mr. PJ Mullen of Real Men Drive Minivans. Even though we may not agree on wheels, PJ is probably one of the smartest bloggers I know and one of the first guys I go to when I'm in doubt about something ("Why I Hate Mommy Bloggers" wouldn't have made it to the internet without PJ's thumbs up). Besides being smart, PJ has a great family with wife son and baby on the way (and he can tell some touching stories). But the thing that PJ does better than anyone I know is cooking fearlessly. (Chocolate pasta with pork ragout anyone? Go get the recipe, people.) I'm sure you'll enjoy this guest post about PJ's son


"Sit, Book, Read"

My son loves his books. Over the past two years he has accumulated a rather extensive collection with a heavy emphasis on the works of Dr. Suess. Not a day goes by where I don't read "Green Eggs and Ham" at least once.

We have been reading to him since he was only a few weeks old, as we had read things about its benefits even very early on. Plus, it gave us something to do and, occasionally, to keep us awake. Initially we would read to him sporadically, but by the time he was six months old it became a regular thing before naps and bedtime to help establish a routine.

It has gotten to the point where if he isn't playing with his blocks or magna doodle, then he is sitting on my lap as I read another book to him. Sometimes I can spend half of my day reading a seemingly endless number of books to him.

As a parent his interest in reading thrills me to no end and I am more than happy to indulge his curiosities. With each time I read a particular book he picks up new things, points out letters, repeats words after me and even tells me the characters names.

Recently, however, he has become a little demanding as his ever growing verbal skills have enabled him to begin to express himself. No matter what I'm doing at any given moment I am expected to be obey his every command. Book in hand, he confidently strides up to me and without hesitation delivers the following instructions:

"Papa. Sit. Book. Read."

Excuse me?

Since I obviously did not understand the words coming out of his mouth, he repeats himself, this time with greater emphasis.

"PAPA. SIT. BOOK. READ."

The only problem with this situation is that his demands are increasing in regularity so much so that anything but strict compliance results in a meltdown. Any attempt I make to put whatever book he is thrusting in my face aside so I can finish whatever it is I'm doing, be it cleaning, fixing him a snack or attempting to go to the bathroom is met with great consternation.

In some way I guess I should be encouraged as this series of words could be the making of his first actual sentence. While the construction is slightly flawed, the intent to communicate in a logical fashion is definitely there.

Still, I can't help but think that maybe we erred when we named our son. Given his current disposition and complete inability to compromise I'm thinking that we should have called him Commodus.

If you really think about it there really is little difference between a toddler and an emperor. Neither one can be easily influenced once they have made up their minds and their servants can only hope that they rule benevolently.

And so, like General Maximus, I continue to bend to the the wishes of my little ruler, reading "There's a Wocket In My Pocket" for the thirtieth time this week. As the story concludes and he wanders off to find his next conquest I can only sit back and wonder:

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!"

RMDM



Copies of Sugar Milk are available through Amazon for under $12. Click Here For Your Copy.


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Behold My Kids, In Whom I Am Well Pleased

One of my favorite things about summer is having the opportunity to take Noah, Harrison, Allie, Avery and Sawyer to visit their grandparents in Pennsylvania. The rural (and I mean rural) countryside combined with the temperate climate are perfect for kicking the children outside to fend for themselves. By bedtime, they are usually clothed in the animal skins of whatever they dined on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Last year Sawyer, who’s three, stitched his first piece of attire—a babushka fashioned from an undeterminable number of chipmunks (too cute!).

Yet for all its charms, the backwoods are a long way from the zoos, museums and entertainment venues families take advantage of in big cities, which is why each day, I scoured the paper for some nearby festival, parade, or event intended for kids.

I had many fond memories of these sorts of outings as a boy, but a part of me wondered if they would be a bore for my clan. I mean, today’s modern child is so much more sophisticated; how could they enjoy competing in a sack race when they can play the real thing on Nintendo DS’s “Sack Race Explosion II?” Even so, coming across an announcement for a nature class being put on by the county’s wildlife center, I figured this might at least help broaden their knowledge of plants and animals useful for surviving their afternoons outdoors. Perfect. Sort of.

Seeing as how this was being put on by the wildlife center, my expectations were that the kids would be traipsing through the woods to collect leaves and watch for critters while the staff pointed out interesting facts. Not so. Instead the heralded nature class consisted of nothing more than a college intern reading a collection of Aesop’s Fables for course credit while a staff member observed.

By the way the kids had been whooping like banshees as they loaded up in the van earlier, I half expected them to hogtie the intern and then roast him over a spit. They were quite the opposite, however, sitting perfectly still on the floor through an agonizing forty-five minutes of fable after fable. Now, I don’t mean to brag, but their commendable behavior was a stark contrast to that of the other children—or should I say hoodlums—all of whom wore any combination of either an earring, tattoo(s), or sleeveless jean jacket while also sporting one of three hairdos—a mullet, mohawk or rat-tail.

The differences between my darlings and the squad of Hell’s Angels across the room only became more pronounced during the Q and A session after the stories.

Intern: Does anyone know what a fable is?

Allie [raising hand]: It’s a story with animals that teaches a lesson.

Intern: Very good! Now, what do you think the story with the mouse and the lion is about?

Tattoo Kid: It’s about your mom!

Noah [raising hand]: Actually Aesop was a slave which he represents with the mouse. The lion, in turn, symbolizes the master who is caught in a net or rather, a problem solvable only by the mouse/slave. Thus, Aesop was cleverly conveying the power that slaves can exert over their masters because of their inherent indispensability to the lion.

Intern: Uh…

Mullet Kid: This SUCKS!!!

I am not afraid to say I was proud of my children. Maybe I’ll let them have real hotdogs tonight. My beaming grin, broadcasted my smugness to the other mothers who had since been eyeing me with both astonishment and curiosity over how the lone dad among them could have such well-behaved, and intelligent children. The wildlife staffer noticed too. At the conclusion of the “class” she asked if we could be back next week for more fables, but her tone in asking this reminded me of a typhoon-ravished, third-world country pleading to the international community for disaster relief.

As temping as another hour of crows and grapes sounded, I declined explaining that we were from out of town, before then walking outside where the kids were running around. Standing by the minivan, I watched the mothers of Satan’s spawn file by me in their cars. Oddly enough, there faces were agape with shock. (Or dare I say jealousy?)

Yes mothers, I am a man, and I can control my brood in public. Behold--I made a sweeping gesture toward my children who were playing behind me. That’s when I noticed what the other moms were gawking at—all three of my sons were peeing out in the open for all creation to see—pants around their ankles, yellow streams arcing into the breeze. Allie and Avery stood nearby, pointing and laughing at them, but they might as well have been pointing to my chagrin. Behold. My children, in whom …I am well pleased.




Advance copies of Sugar Milk are available for sale through Amazon for under $12. Click here for details.

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Here's Your Sign: Guest Post At Life With Tony


My blogging buddy, and fellow comic geek Tony from My Life As I See It asked me to do a guest post as part of an awesome comic book giveaway--a signed first edition of the comic "Kick Ass" (soon to be a movie). Tony's a great person, not to mention a talented aspiring writer. If you don't already read his blog, then you should really enjoy his quirky, but sensetive posts. If there was a Justice League of bloggers, Tony would be on it hands down.

In line with the comic book theme, the short piece I wrote is a Superman / Batman deal (like I wasn't going to talk about the Big Blue Boyscout).



A bonus post brought to you by Fatherhood Friday.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

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The Random Thoughts Of Jack Be Nimble

Today I am very pleased to have Jack (Be Nimble) from Random Thoughts - Do They Have Meaning? Jack's been daddy blogging for a lot longer than myself, and he knows his stuff. What's more, Jack is an incredibly talented writer (I've embedded some links to some of his great posts), and I am thrilled he could do a guest post for the Lunchbox.


When I was first given the opportunity to serve as a guest blogger here I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to approach it. Couldn’t decide if it was going to be like the cameo appearances stars used to make on the Love Boat or Match Game.

In my mind there was a difference. The Love Boat was filled with people who had at one time been players but had fallen upon harder times and relegated to working on bit parts to try and save their careers.

Match Game was a different story. They had all sorts of cool stars who would make an appearance. Now mind you, that I am a child of the 70s and that this perspective is a little bit more than 30 years old and could easily be wrong.

We were given some basic guidelines one of which is that we are not allowed to praise our host. And I take direction seriously, especially from a man who tried to use a banana as a weapon. Of course he used it as a gun which is a bit different from my plan which would have been to use it in the most obvious fashion.

Yes, I would have eaten the banana and cleverly placed the peel beneath the unsuspecting heel of whomever needed to be taken out. Now I could lay claim to knowing better because the small difference in our ages has bestowed upon me additional wisdom. And I suppose were I a mommy blogger I might have done just that.

But I am not. I am a daddy blogger. I am part of a group of renaissance men who have formed a brotherhood whose driving principle is to support each other. We don’t’ care about race, color or creed. It doesn’t matter what your religious background is because we understand that one dirty diaper smells just as bad as another.

So we gather together in our various cyberspace domiciles and dole out advice and words of guidance to our fellow fathers. We share our strength and talk about sports and tell tales of how far we could run, how much we could lift and how many women are sad not to have been given the grace of our seed.

And we’re humble about it too.

In a crazy, mixed up world we do what has to be done and we make it happen…every…day.

It is not always easy being us. Some people like to take swipes and poke at us. They want us to do it all. Be a man like those we see on television. Strong, confident, masculine and what have you. And at the same time they want to see that softer side, the father who can sit on the floor and play with the kids.

Well, we really don’t worry about whether we can do it all because we are men. We don’t ask for directions because we never get lost. We just explore new sections of town that we have never been to.

We are experts at building things be it out of blocks Legos, or Lincoln Logs. We can take a Tinker Toy set and build a city or a siege engine. We can take the children for an afternoon and teach them valuable life lessons as derived from a nickel defense and so much more.

Yep, it is not easy being a man, but it sure is fun. Before I go let me leave you with one last thought.

2010 is the year of the daddy blogger.



You can also follow Jack on Twitter @TheJackB and become a Fan on Facebook





Advance copies of Sugar Milk are now available. Click here for details.

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Washeteria


This story takes place shortly after we moved into our current apartment, which at the time, had no washer and dryer, thus forcing me to haul the laundry off to the "washeteria." We have since acquired these appliances.

There are many things in this world I find confusing, trade tariffs, jazz fusion, literary agents and my latest enigma, the washeteria. Mind you, it’s not the washeteria’s function so much as it is the term itself. In Latin, washeteria is broken into two parts, the root, wash, meaning, “to clean,” and its suffix, eteria, who’s closest English equivalent would be, “signifying the presence of a short-order grill,” as in caf-eteria. Thus, logic dictates that a washeteria is an establishment where one can do laundry and consume a nourishing meal.

Apparently my postulation was somewhat flawed. True, clothes are cleaned here; however, food in no way factors into the equation. (Later I discovered that following the Civil War, Southern belles, acting in symbolic defiance against the Yankee institution of Laundromats, founded their own version called the washeteria, a moniker intended to preserve the social charms of the old Confederacy.)

Given my faulty conclusion, you can only imagine my facial expression after ordering a cheeseburger from the Vietnamese woman behind the counter at the nearby washeteria. “And hold the onions,” I said reaching for my wallet.

“Vending machine there!” she replied, pointing over her shoulder.

I instantly felt dumb, yet the way she never looked up from the pizza delivery menu she was studying indicated I probably wasn’t the first to order the surf-n-turf special. To mask my embarrassment, I strode toward the machines, inspected the snacks lounging in their designated slots, and chose a candy bar that wasn’t a hamburger, but cost the same nonetheless.

As it turned out, this particular snack suffered from sudden acrophobia, freezing like a novice on the high dive and refusing to plunge into the access tray. Attempts to “talk” this jumper down proved futile and were abandoned after the Vietnamese woman behind the counter reprimanded me for ignoring the posted warning, Do Not Kick Machine! It would’ve been easier to forget this misfortune were it not for my daughter’s teddy bear, the victim of a midnight accident, who was now sloshing merrily in the washing machine’s window. The smug look in its eyes made me feel as if he were enjoying some raucous pool party to which I was intentionally not invited. An unexpected hated bubbled up in me.

Irritated, I walked away to search for an open dryer from among those lining the back wall of the building. It didn’t help matters that most of them were already in use or were being staked out by my fellow washaterians. The way they stood in front of their respective dryers, their eyes glued to the round screens, reminded me of shoppers watching the display TVs an a mega-electronics store. During a commercial break, one “shopper” looked down to notice his son was holding a candy bar. He frowned, and then glanced towards the vending machine where the Vietnamese woman stood holding an crooked coat hanger. The two exchanged friendly smiles that conveyed their understanding of the mysterious appearance of the boy’s “free” treat.

I stopped loading my damp clothes into the only open dryer and watched the old lady bend the coat hanger back into shape as she walked back to her station. My concentration on her was interrupted by a flutter of movement that turned out to be the little boy shoving a half-finished candy bar into the trash. I narrowed my eyes. That was mine you little… The boy could’ve cared less as he toddled away, but midstride he stopped and inspected his hands. The melted chocolate covering his fingures seemed to be a problem until he veered from the path on his way to an wet load of my laundry waiting its turn. Incredulous, I looked at the boy’s father in the anticipation they he might say something, but instead, the oblivious parent was engrossed in the the network premier of Heated Socks.

Feeding my remaining quarters into the dryer, I realized they wouldn’t buy me enough time to finish the job. The washeteria had managed to stymie me once again. Then I saw that cheery little bear, this time in the dryer. He was pounding on the door, begging to escape the tumbling inferno. The smug expression he had in the washer had been wiped clean. Something about this made me feel much better.






Photo credit: Russell Davies

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In the Limelight at Dad of Divas

Today it is my great pleasure to be a guest of Chris Lewis's regular series, "Dads in the Limelight" which he publishes on his blog, Dad of Divas. (If nothing more, just go there to watch my favorite video in the world.) This is another great example of dads promoting community through their blogs, and it is an honor to be included in this series among such notables dad bloggers as Jim Lin of BusyDad, Daddy File's Aaron Gouveia, and JR Reed of Sex and the Single Dad.

If there is a dad (or dads) that you think should be in the limelight, send Dad of Divas an email to nominate them. As you can guess by the Dad of Divas title, Chris is trying to hold his ground at home as the father of two little girls. If you're not familiar with his blog, or the others I've mentioned, you should check them out. My many thanks to Chris for having me on his site.


Also if you're looking for a free copy of Sugar Milk, here's how to nab a copy while supporting the research in finding a cure for JM. Click here for details. Thanks.







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SAHD Men Are Not Sad Men: A Rebuttal to Working Mother Magazine

Last month I was included in a Working Mother magazine article about the impacts of role reversals between men and women after the husbands are laid off and the wife becomes the breadwinner. The piece, written by Sara Eckel, was none too flattering in its depiction of me and the other stay-at-home dads (SAHD) included in the story. Sure, it’s natural to be upset after being cast in a negative light, but I could’ve been more understanding had Ms. Eckel been a little more objective in her writing or at least finished the article with a positive example of a dad who made the adjustment to his new role. She did not.

The article opens with a former director of an equity firm who, as an at-home dad, is so aloof he doesn’t even know how to dress his kids properly. Then there’s another out-of-work father who sounds competent enough in caring for his young daughter and cleaning the house, but his overstressed pregnant wife doesn’t like the way he does things, so she does all the heavy scrubbing while he plays Flight Simulator. Another husband is basically reduced to the level of a helper monkey in need of constant training by his wife who cites the movie Mr. Mom as her source of hope that her big dumb primate will catch on. And the lone example that comes the closest to showing a capable father actually presents him as doing his job “too well” since the daughter prefers him over the working mother.

The commentary by the experts is even more disparaging. A psychologist remarks on the fragile emotional state of men followed by a family studies professor who contends that out-of-work husbands refuse to do housework as a means of exerting control. Eckel does cite Daddy Shift author Jeremy Adam Smith, but even still I was given the subtle impression that Eckel twisted one small quote from an at-home-dad proponent to underscore her slanted portrayal of these men who won’t adapt.

Don’t get me wrong, the issues discussed in the article are right on target. But Eckel provides no resolution, no hope—nothing that says, yeah, this transition is rough for men, but they can make it through and it can be a positive experience for the family. Yes, your self-esteem can be shattered in this situation. Trust me, I know, but that’s were Eckel leaves readers hanging, and with my case in particular, she makes it sound as if I’m still in the place.

The ego blow of job loss leaves many men unable to find fulfillment in their new role. In the months after Ron Mattocks was laid off two years ago, he admits, he had a tough time transitioning from his former life as a vice president of sales for a major homebuilder to Daddy Day Care. “I was an officer in the army and then an executive in the corporate world.

Suddenly, I’m packing lunches and making sure the kids have everything in their backpacks. My entire self-image pretty much got shattered,” says Ron, 37, from Houston. “I had to really rethink myself, and that’s been a long, discouraging process.” He misses the external validation he got through his work—the backslapping for a job well done—and is struggling to find that same sense of confidence internally. It has helped, however, to see his wife, Ashley, gain confidence in her career. “Though I don’t bring value to the family the way I used to, my role is important,” he says.


Yes. That is me. Still struggling to find that same sense of confidence. In fact, I am so distraught over not having my back slapped anymore, that just the other day, I took the banana meant for my stepdaughter’s lunch, pressed it against my right temple and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, in my utterly shattered state, my hand was shaking wildly which caused the banana bullet to ricochet wildly throughout the apartment, and in the process the bullet knocked from the walls several of the prominently displayed employee-of-the-month plaques and training certificates I’ve earned over the entire span of my 37 years of existence. And seeing that big bare spot on the wall representing that huge void of external validation from 2008 to the present brought me to my knees sobbing. Oh bullshit!

The thing I tried impress upon Ms. Eckel during the several interviews she conducted was that, yes, my self-image had been built on my job, but through my experience as a stay-at-home dad I’ve since learned that my confidence comes from a place deep within myself, and thus I didn’t need those slaps on the back.

And there was something else, now what was it? Oh that’s right, I wrote a book about it! (Why do you think I agreed to do the interview?) I even mentioned how I wrote it with the idea in mind that it would help other dads in this same position to laugh a little and recognize they weren’t alone. But then again, to have included this insignificant little detail would’ve ruined the kabuki theater performance of the sad men being directed by Eckel in this article.

I haven’t seen this many references to Mr. Mom and Daddy Daycare since reading the staff selections at Throwback Video’s All 80’s & 90’s VHS Rental Extravagansa at that strip mall down off JFK boulevard. Contrary to what Eckel and Working Mother think, all SAHD Men are not sad men. I know oodles of them.


This post brought to you by Fatherhood Friday sponsored by the community at DadBlogs.


Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

And don't forget about Sugar Milk book give away for the JM Foundation! Click Here for details.

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Early Feedback On "Sugar Milk" Not Good - Guess I'll Have To Do A Give-Away



Apparently, Mr Always Home & Uncool didn't think the Sugar Milk was too cool. I think this actually has more to do with my screw up during the JM event in Austin a few weeks back.

Well, not really (he's totally joking with me). This, as he put it, is how fellow writers wish one another good luck, much like the way actors tell one another to break a leg.

Speaking of JM, it still not too late to make a small contribution to the foundation. In fact I'm going to run a deal. Whoever makes the single largest donation (above $30) from today until the 29th of March, I will send them an autographed copy of Sugar Milk.

Just press on the button below for directions on how to make a difference. Make sure you either list your name or a code name that I can use to announce the winner on the 30th. Come on, a little Sugar Milk is sweeter when it's for a good cause.

To learn more about JM, go to www.curejm.com.


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God Does Talk To Me

Last night I was talking on the phone with my youngest son Sawyer, and he had an interesting theory to share with me.

Sawyer: Dad, I know why you send me all the things in the mail that I like.

Me: Really, why?

Sawyer: Because I talk to God and tell Him what I want and then He tells you.

Me (through a huge grin): That's right. He tells me about you everyday.

Sawyer: Everyday? (slight pause) Hold on Dad.

The phone bobbled around a bit and then I heard Sawyer yell over his shoulder, "Hey mom, guess what? I was right. God really does talk to Dad!"

Yeah. Everyday. And I talk to Him about you too, Son.


***

On a side note, sorry I haven't been around much on here or on your blogs. At the moment, however, all my waking energies are being devoted to marketing and promoting the book. Thank you to all those who have already purchased a copy. Forgive me if I start to go stale pushing it all the time, but for the time being it's my job--literally (PSST, advance copies are available). So for all of you who think I've stopped following you or have written me off, I'll be back.

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"Endurance" Published by The Good Men Project

Today The Good Men Project website published my essay "Endurance," and I can't say enough how thrilled I am about this. The Good Men Project was originally conceived by Tom Matlack and James Houghton as a book of essays written by men willing to open up about their lives as men. (You may have read my own review.) The book was published in November of 2009 and has been well-received an has also expanded into a documentary film. The Good Men Project also includes The Good Men Project Foundation providing educational, social, financial or legal support to men and boys at risk. All proceeds from the sales of The Good Men Project book and documentary film DVD are distributed to the Foundation. I am a huge proponent of The Good Men Project and their efforts. Many thanks to Tom Matlack and editor Larry Bean for including my essay on The Good Men Project's site and for their support of my own book, Sugar Milk. I am very humbled by this opportunity. I hope you all enjoy the essay.


Endurance

When I was a boy, I watched my dad sink an axe blade into his right leg. He was trying to crack a welded join, connecting a pair of fifty-five-gallon barrels, when the axe head ricocheted off a drum and struck him square in the shin. I remember the dull thump of the metal hitting his leg and the bloody splinters of bone hanging from the cut in his jeans; but mostly I remember the calm way in which he went into the house, took a shower, and then drove himself to the hospital. Aside from muttering something about being stupid, Dad never said a word. Still, the pain contorting his face at every jagged step told me how much agony he must have been in.

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Houston Family Magazine: The Makings Of A Stay-at-home Dad

You may have noticed that little bar above mentioning that I blog for Houston Family Magazine. It's something I've been wanting to announce for some time, but held off until the first issue came out. After a little prompting by Melisa at Suburban Scrawl, who told me not to be such a chicken, I got in touch with Houston Family's Editor and Co-Owner, Dana Donovan about submitting a few freelance pieces from time to time. What she offered me instead, shocked the socks off of me: a direct link from the magazine's website to my blog, a chance to contribute regularly, an ad for Sugar Milk in the print version of the publication, and the chance to attend events to tout the book. Yeah, that's what I said too. I am extremely grateful to Dona and the Houston Family Magazine's staff for this generous opportunity.

The Makings of a Stay-at-home Dad

If you had asked me as a boy, what I wanted to be when I grew up, the last thing out of my mouth would’ve been stay-at-home dad. No, all my childhood aspirations were pretty much what you would expect—an elite soldier, a swashbuckling archeologist, a mysterious secret agent. At no time in my fantasies did I ever see myself fighting hordes of dirty dishes, discovering lost treasures hidden in the dryer’s lint trap or deciphering first grade math homework, and yet, here I am, thirty-some years later, a stay-at-home dad doing these very things.

You can read the rest of the article HERE or you can flip through the entire magazine HERE


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