Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Single Dad's Film Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Fans of the Die Hard franchise learned in Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 that Holly Gennaro McLane died of breast cancer sometime after the third movie, leaving the indestructible John McLane (Bruce Willis) a widower single father of a now grown daughter, Lucy, and son, John Jr.

John Jr., “Jack” (Jai Courtney) is in trouble in Russia. He murdered a Russian mafia boss apparently at the behest of a political prisoner, Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Jack is arrested and John flies to Moscow to help and support his ostensibly wayward son. However, it turns out that Jack is CIA on a mission, which John unknowingly blows. The CIA's interest in Komarov relates to vital information contained in a file about a high ranking Russian official.

In terms of action, A Good Day to Die Hard doesn’t disappoint. Shortly after John arrives in Russia, there’s an awesome explosion followed by a great three-car (truck) chase scene through traffic congested Moscow streets. Other than the occasional interruption of unexceptional dialogue, mostly relating to John’s less-than-stellar parenting as Jack grew up, the action sequences, replete with helicopters and large caliber fire arms, are essentially non-stop.

Missing in A Good Day to Die Hard, however, is the amusing banter between John and his sidekick, who in this case, was Jack. In the original, John had Sgt. Al Powell (Reginal Veljohnson) and in Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Capt. Carmine DeLorenzo (Dennis Franz) was the bumbling cop straight man. Also missing in the latest effort is a really great bad guy like Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Even the obnoxious, attention seeking television reporter Richard Thornberg (William Atherton) served as part of the plucky comic relief in the first two Die Hard films and helped make John McLane a more complex, likeable character. To avoid spoiling, neither Jack nor the bad guy, whoever he, she, or they may be, just don’t measure up.

For me, seeing Bruce Willis reprise this role mostly reminded me of my advancing years; Willis will be 58 years old next month and, although he’s still in pretty good physical condition, is starting to look his age. Notably, this is the 25 anniversary of the first Die Hard. (Click here to order the 25 Anniversary Die Hard Collection.)

Cue Ode to Joy.

Still, John McLane still has a couple of good one-liners and, yes, there is one “Yippee ki-yay,” well, you know the rest. On the other hand, I think John McLane must have said, "I'm on vacation," at least five times; not once did the line garner a laugh. In all, A Good Day to Die Hard is a poorly written and, other than the somewhat redemptive explosions and chases, is the weakest among the previous four installments replacing Die Hard With a Vengeance.  Still, if a guy is a fan of Die Hard and John McLane, you pretty much have to see it. If you have a son who’s old enough to filter the strong language and violence, bring him along, too.

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, check out Matthew S. Field's author page at Author Profile: Matthew S. Field and connect on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Math Help for Your Little Logical Thinkers

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled "U.S. Math Scores Hit a Wall," Robert Tomshow wrote, "Fewer than four of 10 fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in mathematics, according to a highly regarded federal test given in early 2009, adding to recent evidence that the U.S. drive to become more economically competitive by overhauling public education may be falling short."

While the macro-educational issues may be a tangential (pun intended) concern, single dads, your micro-educations concern is certainly directed toward your own children. In addition (pun intended), while it may bother you that math proficiency among American students may adversely affect the 21st century economy, your energy is focused toward helping your kids get good grades in elementary school to prepare them for high school so they can get into a good college and get a good job so they can find a good spouse so they can have good kids so they can worry like you do about their childrens' futures.

What's the point?

Oh, yeah. Math. I found a couple of great resources for math help and practice for your little scholars. Of course, there are others, but The Favorite Son seems to like these the best.

Math Help: About.com


To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, check out Matthew S. Field's author page at Author Profile: Matthew S. Field and connect on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Lew" the New Single Dad

Courtesy of Kathie Austin Photography

Near the end of the book signing for The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking,and Baseball that I did at Vicki Berger Erwin's Main Street Books in “Old Town” St. Charles, Missouri earlier this year, a familiar face walked through the door with a darling little girl, obviously his daughter, in tow.

“Lew” and I had gone to and graduated from the same high school. He and I were friends, but not close; Lew lived in a different part of the St. Louis area than I did, and, while each of us was an athlete, he and I played different sports. As such, we didn’t have much opportunity for interaction outside of class. After graduation, the two of us ended up at the University of Missouri where we were both active in the Greek system. Because our “houses” were literally next door, I’d see him occasionally.

When he came in and in spite of not having seen him in almost twenty hears, I immediately recognized him and greeted him with, “Lew! What a surprise!” He and I immediately started to catch up.

It turns out that Lew is a recently divorced single father of the lovely young lady who accompanied him that day. Almost simultaneous to his personal situation, it seemed, the sluggish economy has taken a toll on Lew’s independent financial advisor business in which he was a partner. He’d moved out of the home he’d previously lived with his ex-wife, taken an apartment, and, obviously, shared custody of his daughter. In short, Lew is in what I refer to as the “transitional phase” of single fatherhood.

"Whether you lose your spouse and the mother of your kids to death or because of a divorce and/or abandonment, adjusting to the new reality of things is a major and life changing task.(i)" Transitioning from one-half of a married couple, whether the separation is the result of a divorce, separation, or some other permutation of single fatherhood, is often trying. Not only is a single father trying to figure out how to balance his relationship with his children with earning a living, but everything is new from his address to his silverware. A difficult economy that affects income or requires a career change adds to the stress.

To combat these variables, a single father should do his best to control those factors that are under his control. The most fundamental and important of which, in my opinion, pertain to the dad’s own mental and physical health and that of the children who depend him. Those factors include:

1) Put on your oxygen mask first, i.e., do what you need to do to feel right;
2) Maintain your routines and traditions;
3) There is no wrong way to grieve as long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

I was both surprised and flattered to learn that Lew was a regular reader of “The Single Father’s Guide” blog. I said that I hoped the advice and information there have helped him. Of course, there will be more that he and other newly minted single dads will have to do as they move forward with their lives and with their kids, but Lew has a good start.

Lew left Main Street Books that afternoon with a copy of The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, while his daughter took with her a few books of her own.
i "How to adjust to life as a single father." Wayne Parker. About.com Guide. Accessed 1/22/13.

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, check out Matthew S. Field's author page at Author Profile: Matthew S. Field and connect on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Teenage Daughters, Dating, & Meeting the Parents

“Parents are like God because you wanna know they're out there, and you want them to think well of you, but you really only call when you need something.” –Chuck Palahnuik
Well, single fathers, your daughters who, it seems, were only very recently wearing princess costumes, playing with dolls, and looking up at you with those big, round, puppy dog eyes making you melt every time, are now teenagers. Whereas you had been the center of their universe, at least as it related to their experience with “boys,” now your little girls have now begun to notice members of the opposite gender in their class and in their other social circles. They’ve even started talking about dating or, perhaps, already started.

Beautiful Daughters Sharing a Chair at CitiField (2011)
Oofah. Pass the Pepcid.
Gentlemen, have you been a role model for your daughters as it pertains to their expectations for a boy’s, and as they mature into women, a man’s behavior toward them? Do your young ladies have the expectation that the boys in their lives treat them with such often outmoded ideals as respect, good manners, and chivalry? I certainly hope so.
Recently, one of my beautiful daughters asked me if she could go to a boy’s house one weekend afternoon to “hang out” with some friends. I tell my all three of my kids, “I’m all about the, ‘Yes.’” So, I said, “Yes,” but I predicated my answer upon either knowing or meeting the parents of the friend at whose house the party would be. My beautiful daughter answered, “Dad, do you always have to meet the parents of my friends? It’s embarrassing.”
In spite of the fact that my beautiful daughters are high on the responsibility scale for their ages, my answer to her question was, of course, “Yes.”
First and most obviously, I want to make sure that the environment where my daughter is spending her time is safe. I don’t believe I’m a “helicopter parent,” constantly hovering over his children and not allowing opportunities for their personal, emotional, and social growth. Rather, I’m communicating to my daughter that I care about what they do and where they go because I love her. Second, by virtue of the fact that I’ve taken the time to walk my beautiful daughter to the door, smile, and say, “Hi, I’m . . .,” I’m communicating more than just a greeting. The subtext I convey is that I’m a gentleman, my daughter is a lady, and we have the respect for you and your family to take the time to care who you are. In return, we expect the same consideration. Finally, I’m talking with my daughter through my actions both how to respect a woman and a gentleman takes the time to make sure that the women in his life can safely take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them.
For some reason, my daughter decided not to go to the party. I didn’t press for a reason. A few days later and quite by accident, however, I learned that there had been some moderately nefarious activities that took place that afternoon. I like to think that my behavior set a standard for my daughter and, in my daughter’s mind, the people at that party who may have not made good decisions did not live up to it.
Yeah, I know that the person I am sometimes makes my children, in particular, my teenage daughters, crazy. They don’t always understand the reasons I do the things I do, but they’re still young and don’t have experience and context.
When my teenage daughters were my little princesses, dressing up and playing with dolls, I held their hand in busy parking lots or in the midst of big crowds of people because they didn’t have the perspective to see the dangers that might hurt them if they weren’t careful. Eventually, my young ladies will have that perspective. For now, though, I’ll still hold their hands.
Beautiful Daughters sharing a chair a la Stade Olympique in Montreal (2001)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Quotes for Single Dads

Okay, guys. If you’re a single father, then there’s about a 95% chance that Cupid missed his mark the first or, ahem, second time around. Well, here’s your chance to create some magic. For a lot of these Valentine’s Day quotes, you may notice, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek.

“Love is a grave mental illness.” -Plato

“I saved a bunch of money on Valentine’s Day by switching to single” –Unknown

“You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to show someone how much they mean to you.” –Unknown

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” –Phyllis Diller

“Valentine’s Day is so fake. If you love a girl, you’ll treat her special every day. Not just once out of 365 days.” –Unknown

“People call it Valentine’s Day. I call it Tuesday.” –Lil Wayne

“A real man can make every day Valentine’s Day for his girl.” –Unknown

“To be in love is merely to be in a state of perpetual anesthesia.” –H.L. Mencken

“No woman will ever be truly satisfied on Valentine’s Day because no man has a chocolate penis wrapped in money that ejaculates diamonds.” -Unknown

“Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art everyday my Valentine!” –Thomas Hood

“February 13 should be international condom day.” –Mario Tomasello

“How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?” –Oscar Wilde

“It is impossible to love and be wise.” –Francis Bacon

“Valentine’s Day is when a lot of married men are reminded what a poor shot Cupid really is.” -Anonymous

“I wish jewelry stores were more honest about what they’re selling. It would certainly make for more entertaining commercials.” –Yours Truly

Photo Credit: Kathie Austin Photography, LLC

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Think what you will: I buy Silk Milk

It’s all right. I’ll admit it. I drink and use both the almond and soy varieties of Silk Milk in many of my recipes. I don’t mind if some folks have an impression that I’m a tree-hugging, granola eating, emotion-feeling new-ager who lives in artsy, eclectic Village of Warwick, New York, not that there's anything wrong with that. Admittedly, I wrote a children’s book, Father Like a Tree, I actually have a granola recipe, and I do advocate for “keeping it real” when it comes how a guy feels.

On the other hand, I am also the guy who'd been offered letters of intent to play baseball and football in college - I cannot currently recollect or, as a 46 year old man, even conceive the reasons I didn’t play; maybe I have more in common with J.D. Drew than I previously thought; I have harvested a wild pig - no pork tastes better than wild pork; and, while hunting deer in Rhode Island and after running out of slugs for my 12 gauge semi-automatic, I dispatched a deer with my bare hands - it’s a long story.
I buy Silk Milk.
Also an advocate of a healthy lifestyle for single fathers and their children, I have a suggestion: when you’re cooking, switch cow’s milk for Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk. (No, I’m not on Silk’s payroll.)

Here’s the deal: Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk contains 90 fewer calories per cup than 2% cow’s milk, has more calcium, less fat, no cholesterol, and significantly higher values of vitamins D, E, B12[i][ii]. Don’t get me started on the developmental and evolutionary reasons that adults should limit their intake of dairy. And, if life is a “game of inches,” as I have suggested, saving 90 calories per cup in every recipe, e.g., pancakes, oatmeal, sausage gravy, etc., a single dad can save thousands of calories for his family every year by making the switch. At least as important, no one will even notice. I’ve done the research. 
So, think what you will. Let other folks thingkwhat they will about single father parenting, nutrition, and whether or not you are a soy milk drinking tree hugger, not that there’s anything wrong with that. You’ll make your decisions. You’ll live your life. You’ll make the small, consistent improvements in your life to maintain a healthy lifestyle in which both you and your children will flourish.
Stay tuned for some great recipes that include Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk as an ingredient.

[i] “Silk Unsweetened Original Almond Milk.” Silk.com. Accessed 2/7/13.
[ii] “Nutrition Facts: Milk, reduced fat, fluid, 2% milkfat, with added vitamin A.” Self Nutrition Data. NutritionData.Self.com. Accessed 2/7/13.

To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, check out Matthew S. Field's author page at Author Profile: Matthew S. Field and connect on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Widower Single Dads Keep Promises

Sometimes, I think that I unfairly or, perhaps, irrationally avoid addressing a small, but significant segment of the single father universe: widowers. As I’ve previously written both here on my blog and in The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, the number of single fathers exceed two million in the U.S. and Canada alone. While the vast majority of single dads are divorced or separated, one in twenty single fathers is a widower.

I’m one in twenty.
I think some widowers are reluctant to discuss the details of their single father situation (SFS) for fear of wearing their emotions on their sleeves. I suppose I feel that way, too. While I've communicated my own SFS in order to explain my opinion about one parenting issue or another, I’ve tried not to wave it like a banner or wear it like a scarlet letter. I am who I am, for better or worse, but I don’t want any single experience to define who I am.
That said, I became a single father eight years ago this week. After becoming a single dad to two daughters, seven years old and four years old at the time, and a seven month old son, I think I have some profound thoughts about being a widower single father. For the members of this unfortunately exclusive club, these are especially for you:

Do what you have to do to be you again. Yeah, this encompasses a couple of my other “Single Father Golden Rules,” but includes the widower taking care of himself first and grieving his loss if he has to. A lot of a widower’s family and friends empathize with the emotional aspect of loss. Some may even have lost someone close to them. One thing folks who haven’t lost a spouse don’t understand is the fact that, although a widower is physically whole, he still has two arms, two legs, etc., an important and practical piece of him is gone. A single father whose partner is not just out of the house, but is also no longer in this world, is both his children's emotional support and the disciplinarian. He is the breadwinner and the homemaker. He is the homework helper and the story reader. Often, he has no backstop. For these reasons and more, brother, you have to have your stuff together. So, do what you have to do to be you.
Keep it “real” with your children. There’s no shame in the tragedy that a widower single father and his children have regrettably been forced to endure. Don’t treat it like there is. In other words, when children ask about their mother, talk to them about her. Recount the true stories about her and tell them how much she loved them. In my experience, sharing those experiences help kids connect with their mother, understand the loss, and put it in the proper context. There’s a fine line between keeping it real and dwelling on it in an unhealthy way. If a the single dad perpetually broaches the topic, he may be unwittingly teaching through his example how not to not to put the loss in context and to move forward with life.
Maintain routines and family traditions. Being consistent with bed times, wake up times, and meal times are incredibly underrated ways not only to uphold habits that are healthy for the body, but also to create an emotional comfort zone that facilitates constructive grieving. This is true not just for children, but for the single dad himself. By continuing to have family movie night on Fridays or go to soccer practice on Tuesdays after school or attend family Taekwondo classes on Saturday morning, familiar experiences will continue and provide the space and ability for the newly configured family group to evolve toward new, but productive lifestyle and lives.
Image Credit: ESL Resources (henry4school.fr)

Allow yourself feel the way you feel. When our ancestors lived in caves and huts and a hungry bear started chasing one of us, we responded with fear ran as fast as our legs would carry us. When a rival tribe infringed on our hunting territory, we became angry and defended our homes and families. We, men, developed emotions and feelings as evolutionary survival tools and, well, here we are. Somehow, that's changed for modern man and showing emotion is frequently not considered masculine. I'm here to say that's wrong. Widower single dads will experience a range of emotions including happiness, sadness, envy, regret, love, jealousy, confidence, anger, satisfaction, resentment, and about a million more. My advice? Allow yourself to feel the way you feel and, then, move on. As a result, you may just survive this yourself.

Sure, all of this sounds pretty easy when we read it, but it’s not. Dealing with a disrespectful and emotional teenage daughter or a maniacal toddler can sometimes make a guy wish he was anywhere else, doing anything else, being anyone else than who he is: a widower single father.
Single dad, you know, though, you can’t be. You've kept one promise. You’ll keep another.
My children's mother, taken by her daughter who was then six years old.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Porcelain Angel: A Daughter's Journal of a Mother's Journey Through Mulitple Sclerosis

 On February 9, 2013, my friend Allison Redfern’s book, Porcelain Angel: A Daughter’s Journal of a Mother’s Journey Through Multiple Sclerosis will be released and available to purchase anywhere fine books are sold. Allison is a graduate of Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Missouri (the same high school as St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman David Freese and Philadelphia Phillies slugger, Ryan Howard) and an alumna of Indiana University. She and have a great deal in common, including our home town, many mutual friends, and the same publisher.

Porcelain Angel is the account of Jane Rolston Redfern’s journey through Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Beginning with glimpses at her journal entries, which reveal thoughts and concerns in the context of the diagnosis, the subsequent battle, and the daily joys and trials of motherhood, Porcelain Angel chronicles a family’s triumphs, tragedies, and emotions resulting from living with MS. As years pass and the disease gradually steals from Jane Redfern the ability to put pen to paper, her daughter unwittingly continues the narrative through her own journal writing as she describes her own passage from childhood through adulthood and the effect of MS on her family[i].
Clearly, Allison’s central theme is MS and the effect that disease had on her family. Although not the focus, the loss of a spouse for an adult man, in this case, Allison’s father, Rex Redfern, presents a series of challenges, even if his children are young adults themselves. When Jane succumbed to her disease, Rex became a single father.
Dad posed a question I absolutely never thought I would hear my father utter. “How would you girls feel if I were to go on a date?” I can’t imagine the expression on my face. It was not that I didn’t want my father to meet someone. He had been so incredibly lonely and his despair was almost tangible.[ii]

While the challenges faced by a young single father may be arduous, those encountered by a mature single father may be no less profound. After decades of marriage, how does a single father who has adult children approach personal relationships? Rex Redfern’s tack, which began with a frank conversation with his children, was about as sound as it could have been.
Reading Porcelain Angel is literally like sneaking into your sister’s bedroom, stealing her diary, and poring over it with forbidden indulgence. An authentic, raw autobiography, biography, and memoir, Allison Redfern’ personal account of her mother, Jane Rolston Redfern, whose battle with Multiple Sclerosis the reader will not soon forget. 

To learn more about Allison, Rex, and Jane, pre-order your copy today:


[i] Porcelain Angel: A Daughter’s Journal of a Mother’s Journey Through Multiple Sclerosis. Redfern, Allison. Matting Leah Publishing. February 9, 2013. Front flap text.
[ii] Porcelain Angel: A Daughter’s Journal of a Mother’s Journey Through Multiple Sclerosis. Redfern, Allison. Matting Leah Publishing. February 9, 2013. p. 108.

--To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, check out Matthew S. Field's author page at Author Profile: Matthew S. Field and connect on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.