Friday, October 25, 2013

The Favorite Son Saga: It's Just a Preschool Thing

After a Monday school night dinner, The Favorite Son asked, "Do you remember Erin from preschool?"

I answered, "Yes, I do."

"There's an Erin on my bus and it might be her, but this Erin 
has glasses," he continued.

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah. You knew I was in love with Erin, right?" my fourth grader asked hopefully.

"I remember."

"You know," he said, "That was just a preschool thing."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parenting, Breast Cancer, & Pregnancy: Advice From This Side - Part II

Last week, I posted a letter a platonic female friend (PFF), Anna, had written to me about someone she knows who is pregnant and has breast cancer. Anna asked if I could meet and talk with a man, Kevin, and his pregnant wife, Kelly. The couple, who also has a four year old, just learned that Kelly is Stage 2.

Here was my answer to Anna’s request.
Hi, Anna.
Thanks for your note. I’m flattered that you recalled those memories of our family during that time with such regard. I guess it’s really true that the way we portray ourselves, in good times and in bad, really does influence others.
Since I know you’ve read The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, I also know that you’re familiar with PFF’s who’ve asked me if I’d be inclined to advise their friends or relatives who are divorced or widower single fathers. In every case, I’ve said, “Yes.” To date not one of those single fathers have ever called.
Well, my theory is simple; men don’t ask for directions. Instead, I wrote the book and I write a blog because I believed guys would be more likely to read a manual written specifically for them.
As you can imagine, I am more than sympathetic to Kelly’s and Kevin’s circumstances. Of course, I would be willing talk with them and help in any way I can. Still, I’m not sure they’d want to talk with a stranger whose fairytale, frankly, fell somewhat short of a happy ending. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t’ think I can help.
I probably will not write a book about it, but, as a man who has an intimate knowledge a world in which his pregnant wife can have breast cancer, I think can still offer some advice. If I get the chance to talk with Kevin and Kelly, this is what I’d tell them.

Make love every day. Physical intimacy obviously won’t solve every problem, but it does make dealing with some problems a whole lot easier. A loving couple who takes the time so express their love physically to each other will not only relieve stress, which will be ample during this time, but will also serve to strengthen the bond between the two of you. The strength of that bond will be important as you deal with doctors, nurses, insurance companies, successes, disappointments, meddling relatives, and more. Both of you need that love for different reasons, but I recommend that you, husband, make it (almost) all about her.
Talk with your kids. Don’t hide the fact that mommy has cancer. A young child will not understand the gravity of a cancer diagnosis, but he or she will understand that “Mommy is sick,” or “Mommy is going to the hospital.” I recommend neither an optimistic spin nor pessimistic one. Too much optimism may create unrealistic expectations in a child’s mind. Too much pessimism may create unnecessary anxiety. As the child matures, his or her understanding of the world and the illness will grow and he or she will ask more questions. Answer with similarly age appropriate honest and direct answers.
Make the hard decisions together. It’s perfectly fine to hope for the best, but it’s also wise plan for the worst. If you don’t already have a healthcare proxy, a living will, and a last will and testament, do them immediately. Making those decisions together will give both of you the peace of mind that you’re making the right decisions for each other and for your children, regardless of current circumstances.
Surround yourselves with beauty. Make your world beautiful with fresh flowers, beautiful music, art, literature, and more. Read to each other. Listen to your favorite band or symphony. Visit the ocean. Take a walk or a drive and enjoy beautiful views or autumn colors. Do all the things that make your hearts happy. As previously mentioned, make love.
Don’t become too excited about good news or too disheartened by the bad. When it comes to cancer treatment, you’ll hear some disappointing news. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost. Other times, you’ll be elated by other news. That doesn’t mean you’ve won. It’s a long battle. If you let your emotions get the better of you, you’ll become exhausted an unable to fight when you need to. Believe you’ll win, but don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve. Be consistently optimistic.
Remove the “Net Consumers of Resources” from your lives. While you’re in the throes of your fight, the world will continue to turn. Bills will need to be paid. Meals will need to be prepared. Kids will need to go to gymnastics or football practice or whatever. As you forge ahead, you will encounter people who will be indispensable assets. Those people love you and, almost just by their presence, will magically create time and resources for you. Those people, I refer to as “Net Creators of Resources.” Others, either through ignorance or selfishness, seem to draw all the energy from the room. I call these people, “Net Consumers of Resources,” and there’s nothing like a crisis for a person to show his or her true colors. Embrace the Net Creators. Remove the Net Consumers. You’ll need all the resources you can muster.
Now, I have one more suggestion for you, and this is very important. Once you’ve put that nasty cancer into remission where it belongs, live every day of the rest of your lives together the exact same way: with love, honesty, courage, beauty, strength, and good friends.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Parenting, Breast Cancer, & Pregnancy: Advice From This Side - Part I

Well, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The fact this topic came up seems something more than ironic.

As I’ve written both here and in my book, The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, women to whom I refer as “platonic female friends,” or PFF’s, have occasionally asked me if I’d be willing to talk with their divorced or widower friend about single father parenting. In fact, those requests were my inspiration writing the book and this blog. This is the first time, however, a PFF has asked me if I’d counsel a husband and his pregnant wife who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’ve lightly edited the note and changed the names to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Good afternoon, Matt.
I hope this finds you well and your book sales healthy!
I realize that this message may come as a bit of a surprise to you, given that you do not know me well. It may even be a bit presumptuous. But it was a risk I was willing to take, if it meant that the wisdom of Father Like a Tree might be able to help another family whom I care deeply about through a difficult time...
A colleague and dear friend, Jane, is facing a difficult challenge. Jane's sister, Kelly was just diagnosed last week with a rather aggressive form of Breast Cancer, Stage 2. She is married with a beautiful little daughter, Belle, and is also currently 4 months pregnant. Kelly will be undergoing surgery and chemo in the upcoming weeks, and is, of course, concerned about how the treatments might affect her unborn child.
When Jane was sharing this news with me, and remarking at how rare it is to see pregnant women with cancer, I immediately thought of you and support you showed your wife. I recall my Mom talking about you and your family with such admiration, about how you were such an inspiration. Though I didn't know you well at the time, I recognized how powerful your strength and love were and the memory stayed with me, which is why I am writing to you today.
My hope is that you might be willing to speak with Kelly and her husband, Kevin, to share your wisdom and insights given your own experience. If you would be willing to do so, I would love to put you in touch with this family. If you feel uncomfortable, please know that I fully understand.
Thank you for your consideration, and please do let me know if you would be willing to speak with Kelly and Kevin.

Check back for my answer on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 for a special edition of The Single Father’s Guide Blog.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bitterly Funny Divorce Quotes

"By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher." -Socrates
Courtesy of Mark Anderson (

"Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse." -Groucho Marx

"Ah, yes, divorce . . . from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet." -Robin Williams

"Divorce is a declaration of independence with only two signers." -Gerald F. Lieberman

"There's only one way to have a happy marriage and as soon as I learn what it is I'll get married again." -Clint Eastwood

"Well, after the divorce, I went home and turned all the lights on." -Larry David

Courtesy of Stu Rees (
"There are four stages in a marriage. First, there's the affair, then the marriage, then children, and finally the fourth stage, without which you cannot know a woman, the divorce." -Norman Mailer

"A lot of people ask me how short I am. Since my last divorce, I think I'm about $100,000 short." -Mickey Rooney

"A divorce lawyer is a chameleon with a law book." -Marvin Mitchelson

"Alimony - the ransom that the happy pay to the devil." -H.L. Mencken

"The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret." -Henny Youngman

Friday, October 4, 2013

Single Father's Book Club: DADS: JUST FOR YOU

A very lovely and inspiring coffee table/night stand/bathroom book about fatherhood composed exclusively of quotations from a cross-section of people, from Euripides to Dr. Seuss to Mozart to William Shakespeare to Walt Whitman, and Life Magazine-quality images, Dads: Just for You is a very nice gift for Father's Day, Dad's birthday, or any other occasion. Some of my favorites quotes from Dads: Just for You include:

"Dads are great about showing us how to do stuff. Even if he doesn't really know what he's doing, he passes that knowledge on to us." - David Butler

"Confident men have patient fathers." - Rose O'Kelly

"There are three stages of a man: He believes in Santa Clause; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus." - Bob Phillips

"Do dads talk about calories, or cavities, or spoiling your appetite? No! Dads grab themselves a spoon and dig right in with you." - Anna Carr

"My father was an amazing man. The older I got, the smarter he got." - Mark Twain

Compiled by Rose O'Kelly as a gift book for Ronnie Sellers Productions and Hallmark, the photographs in Dads: Just for You are often as humorous as they are appropriate for the corresponding quotation. Like, ahem, my 2005 illustrated children's book, Father Like a Tree, Rose O'Kelly's Dads: Just for You is a nice, if only a simple addition to any father's library.