Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Complicated Grief

In both The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball and some of my earlier blog posts, I've established that a single father may experience grief result not just from the death of a spouse, but also from the "loss," or the end, of a relationship like divorce. In many cases, successfully addressing grief to move forward toward a healthy, happy, and fulfilled life is a process that takes time, but one that most people eventually are able to navigate. Others, however, are not so fortunate.

For some, "feelings of loss are debilitating and don't improve even after the passage of time. This (condition) is known as complicated grief. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life.[i]" Symptoms of complicated grief may include, among others, extreme focus on the loss, intense longing, problems accepting the loss, detachment, numbness, bitterness, trouble carrying out normal routines, withdrawal, a feeling of hopelessness, irritability, and a lack of trust.

While medical professionals are just now beginning to understand complicated grief, current treatment includes medication in the form of antidepressants and psychological counseling. If you believe you may be suffering from complicated grief, it would probably be a good idea to contact a health care professional, perhaps starting with your primary care physician who may be able to better diagnose the condition. You may also visit ComplicatedGrief.org or email Dr. Karen LoSchiavo for more information.
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[i] Complicated Grief: Definition. The Mayo Clinic Staff. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/complicated-grief/DS01023. Accessed April 12, 2013.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Single Dad's Movie Review: Trouble With the Curve

Considering the 2013 Major League Baseball season has begun, the Atlanta Braves have had an incredible start to the season, and my book IS entitled The SINGLE FATHER'S Guide to Life, Cooking, and BASEBALL, it just seemed right to include a tip of the cap to one of my favorite films of 2012, Trouble With the Curve.

Clint Eastwood continues to prominently feature fatherhood and, specifically single fatherhood among the films in which he's stars, written, directed, and/or produced. Eastwood stars as Gus, widower and a talented but aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Gus has a secret, which is macular degeneration is robbing him of his sight. Gus is dispatched to scout a phenomenal and potential first round draft pick, if not an extraordinarily arrogant high school talent, Bo Gentry.

Gus' daughter, Mickey, portrayed by Amy Adams, is a lawyer who is enlisted to "keep an eye on her father" by long time friend and fellow Braves' executive, Pete Klein (John Goodman). Mickey is reluctant to be coopted by Pete for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her resentment toward Gus for sending her to live with relatives when she was a girl rather than live with him on the road.

Mickey proves she can handle herself both around the baseball diamond and around her father, but, as a grown woman who fosters profound father abandonment issues, has more trouble dealing with, Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a potential love interest and rival Boston Red Sox scout. No spoiler here, but the audience learns just how much a father and daughter are alike while answering the question, "Can a person move beyond disappointments from the past to live a happy, healthy, and productive life."

In all, Trouble With the Curve is a terrific baseball movie, a wonderful father/daughter relationship movie, and a superb single father movie. The cast turns in quality performances, which always has the effect of making a good story better. Of course, Eastwood is incredible, but I continue to be impressed with Justin Timberlake who seems to get better and better each movie he makes. More than worth the rental or download.

Now, we'll just have to wait and until October to see whether the real actual Atlanta Braves finish the season as effectively Gus gets the last laugh. Enjoy.

* * * * * out of 5

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Home-Based Business Ideas for Single Dads: Collections

For a single father who has primary or sole custody of his children, time is invaluable. For the single dad who works a nine to five, an eleven to seven, a six to six, or some other permutation of a work-a-day job, transitioning to a home-based business can provide significantly more time and parenting flexibility. Of course, a contracting domestic economy may eventually coax or may have already coaxed a single father toward entrepreneurship.

Speaking of which, Entrepreneur Magazine “Businesses You Can Start at Home” provides a number of ideas including online resale, consulting, and virtual assistance, which have worked for some folks. However, eBay is saturated with garage sale product peddlers, a consultant had better have extremely valuable information to sell, and assisting an executive manager or salesperson may be more rigid in terms of time requirements than is practical for the single father who volunteers in his children’s classrooms, coaches little league, and shuttles his kiddies to and from their friends’ houses and birthday parties.
A home-based business which is both in demand, is inexpensive in terms of start-up costs, and almost anyone can do is collections.
Courtesy of Ideal Software
Many businesses struggle with aging debt on their balance sheet. If the business can’t collect balances from their customers through internal means, the business eventually writes-off the money as bad debt. Those accounts that have been literally “written off,” are then often bundled by the business and sold for pennies on the dollar from their original value. The buyers of those bad debt then attempt to collect the monies due from those customers and the profit are the dollars collected less the cost of the written off accounts plus expenses.
For example, Sammy Single Father approaches Satisfactory Flower Company, which has $10,000 of accounts that it has written off to bad debt. Satisfactory Flower agrees to sell those bad debt accounts, including customer names, address, phone number(s), and balances, to Sammy for $1,500. Then, by making phone calls, sending letters, and other means, Sammy collects $4,000 from Satisfactory Flower’s former customers, which equates to a gross profit of $2,500, ($4,000 - $1500).
There are federal, state, and sometimes local laws pertaining to collections practices, so it is important to become familiar with the “dos and don’ts” to avoid fines or litigation. Still, for minimal start-up costs, which may only include a little cash to buy the bad debt accounts, some basic office supplies, stationery, business cards, a phone line, a fax machine, a laptop, collections software (like Collector from Ideal Software),  and perhaps a membership to the local chamber of commerce, collections is an easily to understand, flexible, and potential profitable enterprise.
Remember, when your home-based collection agency is making the big bucks, just make sure you send my consulting fee. For now, you can owe it to me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

True Story: Sometimes, My Dad and I


True story.

Two years ago in the spring of 2011, The Favorite Son brought home a story he wrote at school during some sort of free learning time. The story was contained in a book which had a light blue paper cover and the interior pages were wide-lined primary paper. The name of The Favorite Son's book was Sometimes, My Dad and Me. On each of the five pages in his book was a one sentence description of how my then first grade son viewed is relationship with me. For example, on one page he'd written, "Sometimes, my dad and me, sometimes take a walk." Another read, "Sometimes, my dad and me, sometimes read to each other."

When I read the his little book, I was overwhelmed. The Favorite Son's story was so honest and innocent and beautiful, my first thought was, "What a nice children's book this would make."

A few days later, I put The Favorite Son's book into a Word document, edited the grammar, added a couple of more pages, and renamed it Sometimes, My Dad and I. I showed the "manuscript" to The Favorite Son and asked him whether he thought we should publish it. He said, "Yes."

For more than a year, the manuscript remained on my hard drive and on a couple of back-up drives while I focused on a couple of other projects, namely, The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball. Later in 2012, however, I moved Sometimes from the back burner to the front.

Using Facebook, gMail, LinkedIn, and other social media, I started my search for an illustrator. I'd received a number of inquiries, spoke to several artists, and finally settled on C. Pierson DeCesare, or as I know her, Catherine. She and I worked out the business details, I told her my vision, and she went to work creating beautiful and unique watercolor illustrations. For the design, I worked with the father of one of my good Warwick, New York friends, Tom Lennon, who'd also designed The Dream Seeker.

In time for Father's Day 2013, Sometimes, My Dad and I, the true story of a little boy's perception of his relationship with his dad, will be released.

For more information, check out the Sometimes, My Dad and I on Facebook and become a fan. To obtain a media review copy, please contact Tom Mattingly at Matting Leah Publishing at 845-987-2807.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Favorite Son Saga: A Nice Looking Cat


THE FAVORITE SON: Look how nice the cat looks, Dad.

DAD: Why does he look nice?


THE FAVORITE SON: I brushed him.


DAD: With what?


THE FAVORITE SON: Your brush. CLONK! (My hair brush hitting the bottom of the trash can.)



THE FAVORITE SON: Look how nice the cat looks, Dad.

DAD: Why does he look nice?


THE FAVORITE SON: I brushed him.


DAD: With what?


THE FAVORITE SON: Your brush. CLONK! (My hair brush hitting the bottom of the trash can.)


Friday, April 12, 2013

The Single Father College Student

Here’s a permutation of single fatherhood that seems almost unimaginably difficult: the single father college student.

Whoa.

There may be some benefits to being a single father/parent and a college student. “Many single parents are going to college for a specific purpose, as opposed to some traditional students who attend college because it is the pathway their parents and peers suggest[i]." In addition, “Because many of these single parents are going to college to obtain a degree leading to better job prospects, they take their education very seriously and benefit from their focus[ii]." On the other hand, pursuing an education as a single parent is a daunting task. From personal experience, single father parenting can be a challenge enough without the rigors and stress of an undergraduate or graduate degree program. “Single-parent students generally work hard to balance work, school, and children, sometimes without much help from others[iii]."“Working hard not only meant compromising their family life to meet their academic responsibilities, but compromising their social and personal needs as well[iv]."

Being a single father is a difficult road to navigate, but as a care-giving single parent, a breadwinner, and a student, creating an environment that provides both opportunities for the single father and his children to flourish is even more critical. Some suggestions to craft this atmosphere conducive for single father family success include taking time on perhaps a weekend day to prepare and store the following week’s meals, judicious use of convenience tools like fast food restaurants, and creating and fostering alliances with platonic female friends (PFF’s) with you the single dad can share some child care responsibilities. A single father’s choice of college may also provide significant assistance, as well. For example, “Baldwin Wallace University’s SPROUT program shares residential options for single parents and their children. With SPROUT, families are able to live on-campus year round in a group living environment, and enjoy assisted childcare and personal development programs. SPROUT parents are also supported through personal development, academic services, and financial aid[v]." Of course, this program is available both to single fathers and single mothers. Finally, it may not hurt to attend some time management training, like those offered by organizations like Franklin-Covey and others.
Courtesy: Arundel Publishing
For more ideas not only to survive, but also thrive in a single father parenting environment, check out both The 20 Best Colleges for Single Parents and, ahem, one of the leading resources for single dads, Matthew S. Field’s The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.

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i  Tehan, Lisa. Advising the single-parent college student. The Mentor. February 7, 2007.

 ii  Tehan, Lisa. Advising the single-parent college student. The Mentor. February 7, 2007.
iii  Tehan, Lisa. Advising the single-parent college student. The Mentor. February 7, 2007.

iv Stone, N. V., Nelson, J. R., & Niemann, J. (1994). Poor single-mother college students' views on the effect of some primary sociological and psychological belief factors on their academic success. Journal of Higher Education, 65(5), 571–584.
v  “The 20 Best Colleges for Single Parents.” www.TheBestColleges.org. October 9, 2012.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Single Father's Book Club: A Friend for Dragon? No Friend of Mine.

When she was quite a bit younger, one of my daughters who had heard Dav Pilkey's`A Friend for DRAGON by her elementary school's librarian asked Santa for this book at Christmas. Santa delivered, but had mixed emotions once he read it.

In summary, the hero is a blue dragon appropriately named, "Dragon." "Sometimes Dragon got lonely," so he set out to make a friend. Dragon asks a squirrel, a hippo, and a crocodile to be his friend, but each is "too busy," "too tired," or "too grouchy," respectively. When an apple falls on Dragon's head and a little green snake pretends to be the apple's friendly voice, Dragon finally finds a friend at last. Then, Dragon and the piece of fruit do everything together in spite of the fact that the apple really does not actually talk and is not really capable of any emotion, much less friendship. Eventually, Dragon becomes concerned that the apple will not talk. While waiting for the doctor to tell Dragon the reason the apple will not talk, a walrus eats the apple. Dragon is devastated and becomes even more forlorn as the apple turns brown, rots, and "dies." Eventually, Dragon buries the apple and mourns, but the next summer a tree sprouts from the place where Dragon buried the apple. Over time, the tree grows and produces hundreds of apples with whom Dragon can apparently befriend.

A Caldecott Honor Book Award recipient (for The Paperboy,) Dav Pilkey illustrates A Friend for DRAGON in a very warm, colorful, and friendly way. The cute depictions of Dragon's exploits and emotions are quite endearing. Additionally, the text is easily understandable for the early reader target audience. However, while the story of Dragon's friendship with an apple is clearly a metaphor for perhaps a love of nature, a love of God, and/or a love for one's self, the more simple and literal translation is the protagonist's friendship for a piece of fruit. That's a little creepy. What is the message Pilkey is sending? "It's all right if you do not have any friends or lost a friend. Go to the kitchen and make friends with a cucumber?" If it's just a silly story - a children's book does not always have to have some great moral or deeper meaning, is the ignorance of the protagonist, Dragon, death the sort of subject for a fun, mad-capped, and harebrained romp? I don't get it.

Still, there are some nice take-aways for a young reader from A Friend for DRAGON.  For example, while there may be people in the world who are not willing to be a friend, a person, young or old, should not have anxiety about it. Rather, find something else to do and friendship will eventually happen. Also, like the snake who misled Dragon and the walrus who ate the apple without asking, there are people in the world who will deceive and who will be insensitive. In those instances, the repercussion of people's misdeeds may be out of our control and make a negative impact, but we should make the best of the circumstances. What else can we do? Finally, life goes on, and life does, in fact, have a way of repaying debts, whether the repayment is a detriment or whether the repayment is a benefit, like the harvest of an entire new apple tree for Dragon.

Overall, A Friend for DRAGON is not a book I would have chosen to buy for any child in my life. It's just a little odd from my adult perspective. The fact remains, however, that my daughter asked for this book after it was read to her during "Library" time at school. She likes it. A Friend for DRAGON is not offensive, rather it's just a little strange, but there are a few nice morals a young reader can take from it. Those morals, along with cute illustrations make this book okay to read and own, but, with  other wonderful children's books available on the subject of loss and grief, A Friend for DRAGON is not a book I would recommend.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Favorite Son Saga: St. Louis Cardinals & Homework

DAD: Baseball starts tonight!
THE FAVORITE SON: Can we watch the Cardinals?


DAD: Maybe, if you're homework is finished.


 (Pause.)

FAVORITE SON: Can you let me know what the score was?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Just a Father Like a Tree

A Father Like a Tree. In fact, I had lived, up to that time, a real life fairytale.

I’d married the girl with whom I’d fallen in love-at-first-sight at a high school football game when we both fourteen years old. That girl and I had two beautiful daughters. Our family expected our third child, a son, in only a few months. We had our health, or so we thought. It hadn’t mattered too much that the Fortune 1000 Company, Suburban Propane, which had relocated my family to the lower Hudson Valley five months earlier, acquired Agway Energy Products, reorganized, and eliminated my position.
It was under this backdrop when my then four year old daughter asked me as I tucked her one March night, “Daddy, will you tell me a story? I don’t want you to read, but I want to hear a story I’ve never heard before.”
As I sat on the bed as The Second Beautiful Daughter nestled under her sheets and blankets, I looked up and saw the canopy that hung from the ceiling and draped over her bed. The canopy was a mesh green and was decorated with colorful plastic flowers, vines, and leaves. While I thought about my family and my life, I could almost image that my daughter and sat on the forest floor where a canopy of leaves and branches loomed above our heads. The story my innocent little girl heard that night was the story about a beautiful bird that landed in a tree, built a nest, and laid three eggs.

A month later, that girl who I’d married and who was about to have our third child would be diagnosed with something called occult metastatic breast cancer.
Our son would be born healthy in June of 2004, and my first title, Father Like a Tree would be published exactly one year later. That girl wouldn’t be able to celebrate the story of the love I had for my family. She’d succumbed to that disease four months earlier.
The beautiful bird still lives in the eyes and hearts of her “three baby birds,” and that tree still “lives in the forest with trees of every shape, color, and size.” Although the real life version Father Like a Tree didn’t quite end the way I’d hoped it would, I can still see the beautiful bird through the eyes and the spirit of those three baby birds.
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In 2006, Father Like a Tree reached #2 in Children's Books for Ages 4 - 8 and #35 among all books on Amazon.com. It remains one of Amazon's best reviewed books.  Shop early for Father's Day; order your copy of Father Like A Tree from your local bookstore or CLICK HERE to order from Amazon.com!