Friday, August 30, 2013

The Favorite Son Saga: I Burp Too Much

An oldie, but a goodie .  .  .

When The Favorite Son was in kindergarten, I stopped into the lunchroom at school one day and I found my son sitting with a very cute little girl, Alison, at an otherwise all boys table.

A few days later when The Favorite Son came home from school I asked him, "Did Alison sit with you again at lunch?" He replied, "No, she doesn't sit with me very much because I burp too much."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Single Father's Book Club: 'Men on Strike' by Helen Smith PhD

As I sat at a table for two at Fetch Bar & Grill in Warwick during a recent date night with the lovely Kathie Austin, I had a bird’s eye view of three charming young women who enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at the bar. I estimated the womens’ ages to be mid-20’s, each was attractively dressed and their mannerisms suggested education and grace. If I’d had to guess, the three were sorority sisters a couple years out of college reuniting to catch up and have some fun.

After a few minutes, some young men joined the group and were enthusiastically welcomed. In contrast to the ladies, however, the men hadn’t shaved, had unkempt hair, wore shabby jeans half of the way down their posteriors, and, for all intents and purposes, were rungs below the social ladder from the women who seemed to be more than happy to see them.

“Where have all the good men gone?”

This isn’t the first time I’d observed this phenomenon. This time, perhaps because I’ve seen similar qualities in the boys with whom my teenage daughters count as friends, I decided I’d better look a little closer.

According to Helen Smith, PhD in her book Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters, men

. . . are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce, and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates. The trend is so pronounced that a number of books have been written about the “man-child” phenomenon, concluding that men have taken a vacation from responsibility simply because they can.

According to Dr. Smith’s research, however, men aren’t withdrawing as a result of easier access to sexual partners, Internet pornography, or “simply because they can.” While these factors may be moderators, the real reason is a reality in which men are simply

. . . acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives today’s society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands, and providers. In addition, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be harmed by the myriad of laws, attitudes, and backlash against them for the simple crime of happening to be male.

Smith contrasts the culture’s attitude toward infidelity as an example:

. . . cheating women are celebrated and encouraged by the culture . . . Whoopie Goldberg nonchalantly talked about how she cheated on her husband with little judgment or repercussions by society. In an interview, she stated, “Is screwing around five or six times while married and with different men for that matter something you can say casually? In the celebrity world perhaps.” But if you are Tiger Woods, you can be hit in the head with a golf club if you cheat and society cheers your wife for being empowered.

It’s not just young adult men who have "Gone Galt," a reference to Ayn Rand's character John Galt in her novel Atlas Shrugged, and withdrawn to their man caves and away from commitment. According to men’s rights activists Glenn Sacks and Dianna Thompson who Smith references, “The US marriage rate has dipped 40% over the past four decades, to its lowest point ever . . . in the face of a family court system which is hopelessly stacked against them, have subconsciously launched a 'marriage strike.’” Many adult men who have married, divorced, and subsequently been abused by a legal system biased toward women’s reproductive rights and financial support of the children for whom a man may or may not have contributed his genetic material believe that there is little incentive to marriage.

Dr. Helen Smith PhD
In the chapter entitled “Marriage Strike,” the author summarizes, “Our society tells men they are worthless perverts who reek of male privilege while simultaneously castrating them should they act in a manly manner, and now women are upset because men are being feminized? You reap what you sow.” Concluding, Smith queries, “Our society has become the angry leered-at woman who doesn’t care that men can build buildings or do amazing things like be good dads, husbands, and sons. She focuses instead on the small flaws and extrapolates to all men; they are all dogs, rapists, perverts, deadbeats, and worthless. Who needs them?"

Well, for one, many women who aren’t angry, who appreciate creative, complex masculinity, and who want to have a healthy, loving, and committed relationship with a man, have discovered there are fewer good men who haven’t gone Galt. While this may be great news for the confident, considerate, masculine alpha males because there is less competition for attractive quality women, sadly, these new cultural realities have created a world in which my two Beautiful Daughters will have fewer choices for a partner when they're ready. I’m at least as concerned for my son, however, who will have to navigate these influences as he attempts to mature and actualize into manhood.

Dr. Helen Smith’s Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters is one of the most relevant, informative, and prescient non-fiction I’ve read during the past 20 years. In short, it's a great book. You can learn more about Dr. Smith at her blog:

And finally, guys, you can get your own copy of Men on Strike yourself and read it. You can thank me later.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse & St. Louis Cardinal Baseball

By the end of Mark Mednansky’s interview on Bloomberg Radio a few months ago, the CEO of Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group had convinced me to choose his restaurant for the last night’s dinner of my "Annual Cubs/Cardinals Guys’ Weekend" in Chicago. I’m really not sure how our experience could have been much better.

The Chicago trip started nearly thirty years ago when charter members were still in high school. Considering our personal and professional obligations, not all of the guys are able to participate every year, so the size of the group varies from about five to eight. If I could describe the weekend using just movie titles, I would probably have include The Hangover, Diner, Dazed and Confused, and, more recently, Space Cowboys and The Bucket List.

Eight years ago, we began a new tradition. After enjoying a great dinner at Chicago Chop House (where a scene from my novel, The Dream Seeker, takes place), I volunteered to pick up the check to celebrate a financial windfall. The guys reluctantly agreed, but stipulated that we’d each take our turn to choose the venue and pay for our last night’s dinner. Considering we all enjoy a good wine and good steak, the tip alone has often exceeded the cost of an X-Box and a couple games.

On Friday, we sat, thanks to Roger Levine’s ticket connection, at Wrigley Field fourteen rows behind the Cubs’ dugout and watched the Cubs’ shutout the road weary Redbirds 7 – 0. On Saturday, we decided to forego Wrigley in lieu of a 73rd floor view of the Chicago Air Show from Today Chicago Woman's "Top Fifty Single" Vanessa Casciano's condo. Later, we did actually watch the game from our table at The Tilted Kilt. The Birds outplayed the Cubs, 4 - 0, in part due to a head's up play by my nine year old son's favorite Cardinal, Jon Jay, who scored from third base after a shallow pop fly. Cub's shortstop Starlin Castro caught the ball, but failed to immediately throw the ball back to the infield allowing Jay to tag and score.

Later that evening, as our party of five waited for our table at second floor bar of the Chicago Del Frisco’s Double Eagle on East Oak, my friend Rob Rooney and I turned around just in time to see the hostess leading an entourage past us to a table on the patio. Included in that group was none other than the Cardinals’ centerfielder, Jon Jay.

When the hostess returned, I explained that Jon Jay was in the group she had just seated. I asked her if she would explain to Mr. Jay that I wanted to respect his privacy, but he was my son’s favorite baseball player, offer his group a bottle of wine or a round of drinks, and ask if Mr. Jay would sign a personalized autograph.  Moments later, a Del Frisco’s manager came over and asked my name and confirmed my request.

In the meantime, our own entourage, including Blaise Cooper, Joe Cooper, Erik Froehlich, Rob and me, were seated. Erik had arranged with sommelier and former St. Louisan Michael Burch, a couple of great wines from Del Frisco’s ample list. A decanted bottle of Charles Krug Red Generations awaited us at the table. After Shrimp Remoulade and Crab Cake appetizers, I ordered the very bleu-cheesy Bleu Cheese Lettuce Wedge Salad and the Three Petit Filet Special. Our sides included a Creamed Kale, King Crab Gnocci, and Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. Other entrees included the 22 ounce Bone-In Ribeye, the eight ounce Filet, the 16 ounce Ribeye, and the 14 ounce Veal Tomahawk.

The dinner was terrific. All the steaks were done at the requested temperature and, speaking for myself, the meats were quality, flavorful cuts. Frankly, the King Crab Gnocci and the Lobster Mac almost stole the show. We didn’t have dessert, but Michael brought us each a complimentary aperitif after we’d finished our second bottle of Summitvine Ranch Coho Cab. He included one for himself as the six of us shared a toast.

We’d had an extremely enjoyable experience at Del Frisco's, but it became even better when Michael and general manager Troy Smith brought me a Del Frisco’s stationery card which included a note:

Dream Big!
Jon Jay #19

Jay hadn’t even taken me up on my offer of a bottle of wine or a round for his group! When I saw my son the next day, he was ecstatic with the autograph and asked if we could frame it with Jon Jay’s rookie card, which he has unswervingly refused to trade to me. Jay’s note along with his St. Louis Cardinal rookie card are already at the frame shop.

I’m not sure, but I'd like to think that Jon Jay’s home run, double, and four RBI’s during the Cardinals 6 – 1 victory the following day at Wrigley was due, in part, to the feeling he got from making the day for a nine year old baseball fan. There is no doubt that Jon Jay will always be The Favorite Son's favorite baseball player.

Mine, too.

Friday, August 16, 2013

RECIPE: What Have You Fruit Salad

One of the very cool things about summer is the variety of fresh and mouth-watering fruit available from grocery stores, farm markets, and growers.

A few weeks ago, I took the two Beautiful Daughters and The Favorite Son (TFS) to the grocery store before taking them to camp. I told them that I would get them a "special" breakfast of, get this, DOUGHNUTS! Doughnuts are probably a two or three times a year breakfast entree essentially void of nutritional value, but I still followed one of my "Single Father's Golden Rules" from The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, "Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal."

Each of the kids chose and had to eat a piece of fruit from the wide selection of fruit in the store's produce section before they had their doughnuts. The First Beautiful Daughter chose a pink lady apple, The Second Beautiful Daughter had two apricots, and TFS enjoyed a black plum. With my conscience assuaged a little, my little campers enjoyed their doughnuts; each could picked out two.

The spin-off from this "fun" breakfast was my realization that a lot of new fruit crops had finally arrived in New York State including peaches, several varieties of plums, apricots, as many as a dozen kinds of apples, mangoes, melons, nectarines, pears, berries, citrus, and much, much more. While I had a minute and I was already there, I stocked up on a bunch of sale items including red delicious apples, white peaches, black plums, cantaloupes, to name a few.

A couple days later, I needed to get the kids from camp, which ended at 4:00 p.m., and go directly to the gym where we practice Taekwondo, which started at 5:00 p.m. The cache of fresh fruit saved me again and became part of the on-the-go meal that included baked chicken that the kids ate in the car on the way to the gym.

Most of the time, single dads, meals don't have to be complicated to be healthy and tasty. The What Have You Fruit Salad is truly one that is made of what you have in your refrigerator. Here is how I made mine:

What Have You Fruit Salad

1 apple

1 peach

1 plum

1/2 cantaloupe

Cut the cantaloupe into thin wedges and slice off skin. Cut into chunks. Then, also
cut apple, peach, and plum in wedges, but leave the skins on. Cut into chunks.
Place chunked fruit into a bowl or storage container and serve as either a side dish
or a healthy dessert for a single dad and his summer-loving kids.

What Have You Fruit Salad

Of course, what you don't eat can easily be put into the blender the next morning and turned into a great fruit smoothie!

Best wishes for fun and happy last days of summer. Stay healthy my friends.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WARNING, Single Dads: NBC's 'Smartphone Photos Pose Privacy Risks'

We learn that the NSA is collecting cellular phone data and now we have to worry about cyber-predators unlocking the your photo locations? It's a brave new world, my friends.

Protect your children and your privacy, single dads. Take steps to change the settings on both your telephones and your social media.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Father Like a Tree at Free Spirit Nature Camp

Father Like a Tree (ISBN 978-0-9761528-0-4)
For almost every one of the past nine years, the two Beautiful Daughters and, when he was old enough, The Favorite Son (TFS) have spent part of their summers at Waldorf-influenced Free Spirit Nature Camp in Westtown, New York. Every year, they have a blast! This summer, the First Beautiful Daughter is working as a junior counselor while her sister, the Second Beautiful Daughter (SBD) is a counselor in training. TFS is just a happy camper!

This year, camp owner/manager Kate Fox asked me to do the reading presentation for my children’s title, Father Like a Tree, for the five and six year old “Leaping Frogs,” the seven and eight year old “Laughing Coyotes,” and the nine and ten year old “Running Deer.” The 11 and 12 year old “Trackers” were a little too old for this particular presentation.

I did my regular presentation, which includes the story of how I wrote Father Like a Tree, recounting the night more than ten years ago when SBD was just four years old and I told her a story as I put her to bed one night. I also suggested some of the connections between the story and being a parent or a child. Inn addition and as a result of the opportunities the venue provided, I added another dimension: I asked some of the kids to come up and act out the story, for which almost all were more than willing to volunteer.
Literally, under a canopy of leaves and branches

Although nature is a metaphor for our community in Father Like a Tree, there are really just five main characters: the Tree, the Beautiful Bird, and the three Baby Birds. The little five year old girl, Alexa, who portrayed the Beautiful Bird was beautiful herself, innocent, and so completely without pretense, I was moved.

As the children who acted the parts of the three Baby Birds crouched and pretended to be unhatched eggs, Alexa pretended to lay them. Everyone laughed. She was more than credible as a mother bird as she flew “down through the canopy of leaves and branches to the forest flow below” to look for food for her Baby Birds.

The Actors
Alexa’s enthusiasm was infectious until, about half of the way through the book, Alexa looked at me with fretful eyes and told me urgently, “I have to PEE!” So, I solicited an understudy and continued the story as Alexa ran off toward the little ladies' room.

Once I’d finished reading and the kids had finished acting, I explained that almost every story means something more than just the words in it. I told the children that Father Like a Tree was my story; I was the tree an my children, all three of whom watched and listened as I read, were the three Baby Birds. Then, one of the campers asked, “Who is the Beautiful Bird?”

I responded, “Well, it was my children's mom!”

It’s always fun to watch a group of children connect to a story I’ve written when I read it to them. All of the kids were happy to learn that they would go home with their very own copy of the book, which I sat down and personally inscribed for each one of them. Even a few of the counselors asked for a copy!

Great day! Great camp! Thanks Kate Fox and everyone at Free Spirit Nature Camp for allowing me to be a part of your program this summer!

* * * * *

For more information about a Matthew S. Field author visit this year for your school, camp, library, Parents as Reading Partners (PARP) event, or other group, please click the Contact tab here at The Single Father’s Guide Blog or just call Matting Leah Publishing at 845-987-2807. Thanks!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Perfect Family Car

Kathie in the Picture
In the little village where I live in New York about 50 miles as the crow flies northwest of the George Washington Bridge, it’s difficult for folks to miss my ladyfriend Kathie Austin and me when we go out together with our kids. As regular readers of The Single Father’s Guide Blog know, I have three children, the two Beautiful Daughters and The Favorite Son. Kathie has her four “monkeys.”

For those of you keeping score at home, I have three and Kathie has four. If you add those numbers up, that’s .  .  . a lot.

My oldest, The First Beautiful Daughter (FBD), recently had her 16th birthday. She and I played hookey one day earlier this summer and went to the New York DMV and she got her learner’s permit to drive. Obviously, I’ll have two drivers in the house soon. Once FBD has her license, she’ll be able to drive herself to and from some of her school and social events. She may even be able to shoulder some of the shuttling her younger sister and brother to their activities. I’m looking forward to that.

Beautiful Daughters, Monkeys, Favorite Son,
and a few extra on the Delaware River in June
Considering the fact that this will soon be a two driver household, I thought it would be a good idea to have a second car to complement the conservative, four-door Saturn L300 sedan I’ve driven for the past several years. Keeping in mind that Kathie and I have seven children, I recently bought  .  .  .  a 1974 MG Roadster.

Okay, it’s not very practical for a couple like us who have that kind of brood. On the other hand, maybe it is. All right, I could just be rationalizing, but check this out.

First, on most days I walk to the places I need to go. So, if FBD takes the Saturn to school or to some other place with or without her one of her siblings, it’s likely I won’t have to drive far. On those days I have an appointment that is more than a five minute drive, I’ll just keep the sedan home and, grudgingly I’m sure, FBD will have to take the bus to school. Even if one of the kids has to be retrieved early from school, the MG does seat two.

The Previous Owners: Priscilla & Sam Rogers
Next, had I bought a new or a decent used car that is comparable to the Saturn, I’d probably have to spend $20,000, give or take a few grand. The basic Toyota Camry starts at $22,265; by the time I added a few options, it would be at least three or four thousand dollars more, not to mention almost $2,000 in sales tax. A used Ford Taurus that has 40,000 miles is almost twenty large. The MG cost less than a third of that and I don’t have a car payment. (I hate car payments.)

Finally, when Kathie's ten year old daughter asked, “Mom, why would you guys buy a car that only has two seats? You have seven kids!” Kathie answered with a smile, “Because it only has two seats.”

The fact is single parents, as I’ve chronicled here at some length, often work very hard to make sure their children have all the time, love, and opportunities they need to grow into happy and healthy young adults, often to the detriment of the parents' own needs. So, in my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent (or a couple of parents) taking a little bit of time for himself (themselves), do something that doesn't involve kids. Sometimes, frankly, there really is only room for two, and that's okay.

Of course, it really is a fun little car.