Category Archives: Articles

This is a short selection of newspaper articles or columns I’ve written over the years, to give you a sense of where I come from.

Lookin’ Good

She still looked good despite being dead 12 hours.

I shut the freezer door on Judy and contemplated what to do next – why we ever thought kinkysex.com was a good idea. We were demo’ing for our website how blood chokes – sleeper holds for you pro wrestling fans – could turn the old love lights on. But I held it for a second too long and her lights went out altogether. And since we had the camera turned on, I now had to dispose of both the body and the evidence.

I tried to think what Judy would have done if the situation had been reversed. Judy had the better business head between the two of us. There wasn’t a thing that went wrong she hadn’t found a way to capitalize on. Like the time the police caught us doing the demo on “unusual places to handcuff your lover” when the alarm we thought we’d disarmed at the Crate and Barrel went off at 3 a.m. Judy threw some edible boxers around my waist and while her explanation for why I was strapped to a picnic table featuring gourmet hotdog condiments didn’t impress the police, it did impress Jerry Springer’s producers. Shortly after our appearance we added a line of our own special gourmet condiments to our website and they were a big moneymaker for us.

Yeah, that Judy, she had the magic. Me, not so much. At least, that what she said. Come to think of it, she never liked any of my ideas. But suddenly one of them came back to me. It might just work. The idea for a new website, cannibalismtoday.com. I opened the freezer door.

Yeah, she looked real good for having been dead 12 hours.

Gone

Some of you may know that I wrote columns about being a stay-at-home dad for the Indianapolis Star.  The first column, which you can read here, was about my feelings the day my older daughter Liz started first grade.  This column was written on the day my younger daughter Katy finished high school.  It was never published, but I always liked it.  It serves as a nice bookend to that first column, and I thought I’d share it with you (especially since I got nostalgic over the holidays).  Keep in mind it was written two and a half years ago…

GONE

Katy’s gone.

She didn’t hustle by me on her way out the door.  To her credit, she stopped and gave me a hug when I said, “Well, here it is, your last day of school.”  I needed that hug.

I wished her good luck on her Physics and Econ finals.  She got in her sunburned, paint-peeling red Cavalier, backed out of the driveway, and drove away, waving at me as she did.

On this same porch about 15 years ago I put her older sister Liz on the school bus to first grade.  And got misty-eyed.

I’m misty-eyed again, for an entirely different reason.  Who could have seen this coming fifteen years ago?  Who knew time would pass so quickly?

Liz left the house a half hour ago, on her way to her summer job at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, but with suitcase packed because she and her boyfriend were leaving at noon to go to Peru to be at a friend’s wedding this weekend.  Her boyfriend is one of the groomsmen.

Weddings?

Liz will start her final year at Ball State this fall to finish up her degree in primary education.  She begins her student teaching in August.  Next year at this time she’ll (hopefully) have a job.  She is talking about moving away from Indiana.  She thinks North Carolina would be a good location.

North Carolina?

Katy will be at Purdue in the fall, studying at the Krannert School of Management.  She’s contemplating international business.  She speaks French reasonably well and has the kind of outgoing personality that would fit well in the business world.

International business?

Fifteen years ago I wondered how Mom had felt when she’d put me on the bus to first grade, if her thoughts were similar to mine, but since she had died the spring before, I couldn’t ask her.  Today I want to ask my dad a similar question, how he felt when my youngest brother Brian graduated from high school, but I can’t do that either.  Dad died last fall.  I hope that I will be around to answer these kinds of questions if my kids have them.

I open the door and walk in the quiet house, placing my now-empty coffee mug on the kitchen counter.  I sigh.  And although I know Katy will be home after school this afternoon, and that she will be living with us this summer while she works as a lifeguard before she starts college, something has changed today.

She’s not my little girl anymore.  Katy’s gone.

“Christmas comes to Plainfield”

Published in The Plainfield Messenger, Thursday, November 11, 1993

It’s over. Give up the fight. Christmas has come to Plainfield.

I base this pronouncement on three things: 1) Plainfield Plaza has put up its huge, red “Seasons Greetings” sign; 2) The first Christmas tree in a home has been spotted in the area; 3) My friend Lynn has finished her Christmas shopping.

Of the three, I am most distressed about the last. I barely have the list together for my family, let alone actually have any of the shopping done. Organized people like Lynn shop all year long, finish the buying just when the Christmas season starts, then are able to have fun during the holidays. They are complete killjoys.

Not that I don’t want you to think the first two items on the list don’t worry me. Christmas comes early enough to the big Indianapolis malls without us having to face it out here. I used to think we were safe until closer to Thanksgiving, but perhaps not. Next year someone probably will carve pumpkins that look like Santa Claus and place them in the store windows, sneaking Christmas in weeks before Halloween.

And yes, there really is a house with the Christmas tree up. I won’t give away the location. It’s not in Plainfield, but it is in southern Guilford Township. We saw the house from Ind. 267. The date we saw the tree—I am not making this up—was October 16. Scary.

Of course, these are not the only signs Christmas is here. Wal-mart has had some semblance of a Christmas area for a month. All the card stores got their Christmas cards out with the Halloween cards, they just didn’t feature them until November 1, when they put up their Christmas trees.

Kroger has an aisle featuring Christmas wrapping paper and other Christmas stuff. They put it up when they put away the Halloween candy. I haven’t checked Marsh yet, but I bet they have theirs out, too.

It didn’t help when we got two inches of snow on October 30. I am sure it emboldened any retailer who might have been on the edge. Having snow flurries this past Saturday surely pushed them over.

I don’t mean to sound like a Scrooge. I myself have played a part in this. My children have already watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” several times. They took it out of the library. I let them do it. I have weak moments.

So now they sing Christmas carols a cappella. I’ve drawn the line with Katy when she’s asked to watch our copy of Disney’s “A Very Merry Christmas” tape. I probably won’t be able to hold out much longer, though.

The Toys ‘R’ Us catalog came in the Sunday paper. My children have memorized the page numbers which have the toys they want. I don’t pay much attention at this point because I know they’ll change their minds once they see a few more Saturday morning cartoons.

I know I have to start planning the Christmas party for Katy’s preschool class. As the Parent Representative, it’s my responsibility. But I want to put it off just a little longer, maybe until after I have purchased my Thanksgiving turkey. Of course, if I hadn’t completely spaced a 59 cents-a-pound turkey sale last week, I wouldn’t be able to use that excuse now.

I have yet to figure out why it is we want Christmas to come so quickly. Rick Shefchik, a columnist at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, observed that Columbus Day has now become the unofficial kickoff for Yuletide promotions. He predicts that in another year it will back up to Labor Day.

Under these conditions, I think Macy’s will soon stop waiting until Thanksgiving Day to bring in Santa Claus. Watch for them to start sponsoring the Macy’s Halloween Day parade.

Okay, there. I’ve had my say. Sure, I ranted and raved a bit, but I feel a lot better. Now, where’d I put that Christmas list …

“Nursery Wallpaper Sentimental to Dad”

Published in The Indianapolis Star, Sunday, December 3, 1995

I am logging day four now in stripping wallpaper from what used to be the nursery. The wallpaper, which I’m certain was described as strippable when we bought it, has been coming apart in pieces instead of hunks and sometimes only a layer at a time. That it is taking so long is not setting well with my youngest daughter, who is counting on me to transform this room from “a baby’s room” into “a big girl’s room” – my daughter, of course, being the big girl now.

There is no deliberate attempt on my part to make this job last any longer than is necessary. But to my surprise, I am not annoyed it has taken four days. In fact, I suspect there may be subconscious forces at work here.

This job has actually lasted longer than four days when you consider that my five-year-old has had me under duress for nearly a year now to change the appearance of the room. She can’t remember when it didn’t look this way. Even when she outgrew the crib, we just changed her over to a twin bed in this same room, reasoning that the simple pictures and lowercase letters on the wallpaper would take her through a few more years.

That time has past now, she says, arms folded. She already recognizes the alphabet, she tells me. She is studying the letter sounds in kindergarten, she says. I know this since we practice the sounds often. I also know she doesn’t quite have them down yet. (“Thursday begins with ‘F’,” she says. “No, it doesn’t,” I reply. “You know what ‘F’ sounds like. It’s not Fursday, is it?” She giggles in response. “It should be. I like Fursday,” she says.) But I can’t deny she’s getting there.

She makes me drawings that resemble cross-stitch samplers with alphabet lettering – though the ‘n’ is always backwards – and a message correctly printed that says she loves me. She prints her name and short phrases on cards we send to relatives.

Yes, she knows the alphabet well enough for this wallpaper to come down. But as I stare at the last few remaining panels, I am suddenly not so sure I want to scrape off the last little moons and blocks and cats and sailboats.

When I ask her if she wants the feminine wallpaper her sister has, she says no. She likes Disney stuff and wants something from Pocahontas. Or maybe it’s Beauty and the Beast. Or Aladdin. Depends on which day I ask her.

Her mother and I agree that we will paint the room a nice, neutral color and put up whatever border she chooses. Then, if in a year or so she changes her mind again, we can easily change the border. Eventually she will want what her sister has. Then I’ll have to repaper. I suspect I may not be in a hurry then, either.

The new paint and border will be my next project soon enough. I can remember when the next project was getting this child potty-trained. It wasn’t that long ago. I wonder how she could have grown so fast when I feel so unchanged. Then I get up from the kneeling position I’ve been in. My legs and knees remind me that I have aged, too.

The last panel comes off in pieces. I look at the torn shreds and suddenly think it would be nice to save a piece of it. One little strip with a pastel cat or sailboat. Something I can put back to remember by.

The sailboats are all torn, but I discover one cat that is salvageable. I brush my fingers over the back of the paper and feel the stickiness. Not something that would keep well in a box. I know it my heart it has to go.

Still holding it in one hand, I run the other hand over the soft yellow color I painted the walls above the chair-rail height wallpaper so many years ago and try to recapture the twenty-something mentality I had then. But it is gone for good. Like so many expectant fathers, I wanted time to move quicker.

It did, and now I wish it would slow down. No, more than that. I wish I could grip time and hold onto it, just like I can grip this wallpaper cat from the torn fragment of a disappearing nursery wall.

“Cool-as-ice Dad Melts as his First-grader Climbs Aboard the Bus”

Published in The Indianapolis Star, Sunday, September 5, 1993

I’m standing at the front door, waiting for the school bus to pick up my 6-year old. I am also scanning the neighborhood for crow in case I should have to eat it.

It was just two weeks ago that I chuckled in disbelief as some stay-at-home mom friends spoke wistfully about their children starting first grade. Though Liz, my 6-year-old, was also starting first grade, I was hardly so maudlin. The truth is, I could hardly wait.

After all, this was the same child who somehow could not find anything to do all summer, despite my many suggestions, some of which included chores. I knew this was a child who needed school.

And I don’t go in for sentimentality. Had I not been the one throwing rose petals in front of the school bus last year when it came to pick Liz up for kindergarten? Men, I told myself, just don’t place emotional markers on those kinds of events.

The first sign that I might be wrong occurred on Saturday as I was cutting the grass. The blur of my elder daughter, hair flowing behind her, caught my attention as she ran past. I was struck by how big she seemed, and at the same time, how little. Could she really be six, I asked myself rhetorically.

She is, of course. She asserted her independence when we purchased school supplies by selecting the purple glue stick that dries white instead of the normal glue stick I had suggested. The official school supply list didn’t say the glue stick couldn’t be purple, so I let her have it, as well as the “litterless” lunch box she thought was cool. I applauded her concern for the environment, but I think she really just likes the colors.

Standing in line at Wal-mart with the other back-to-school parents, I contemplated my days without Liz.

Kindergarten had been only a half day. She went in the afternoon. My younger daughter, Katy, still took naps most days. I relished the quiet, knowing it would be broken soon by Katy awakening just a little while before Liz rushed through the door to tell me what she had done that day.

Now she would be gone far longer, away from my influence and entrusted to a teacher I hadn’t met yet. Katy would miss her and expect me to play with her as much as Liz had. While it would be very different, I was sure it would not be cause for emotion.

But now, as I stand here waiting, I’m not so sure. I wonder what kinds of feelings my mother had when I started first grade. Had she felt a sense of relief or regret that I had gotten older? Had she cried after the bus doors closed?

These are idle questions now. My mother died more than a year ago.

I wonder if I will be alive to see Liz’s reaction to a child starting first grade. I wonder if she will ask me how I felt, and if I will remember.

Liz is dressed and ready to go. Her teeth are brushed, her hair is pulled back and her bed is made. She correctly reports her bus number, teacher’s name and other vital information when I prod her. She refuses to let me pin a note to her shirt that contains some of this information.

She says she won’t forget. I believe her. The note remains off.

We wait on the front porch well in advance of the expected arrival time. I made idle conversation that Liz almost ignores. She is so excited, I forgive her.

The school bus comes. I take the obligatory photograph of her getting on the bus. I wave goodbye, but I can’t see if she’s waving back. My eyes have somehow misted over.

I enter the house and realize that gender is irrelevant in this case. We all fall victim to the great parental paradox: We want our children to grow up, but we can’t help wanting to hold onto them for just one more minute.

“Stay-at-home dad copes with choice”

Published in The Indianapolis Star, June 20, 1993.

He looked down at me from atop the scaffolding assembled in the family room where he was repairing the ceiling. I was headed for the kitchen to cook dinner after sending the children to the back of the house to play. Seeing me buzz through, he asked, “So, did you take the day off, or what?”

I froze. The essence of his question, of course, was ‘so what do you do?’, and you’d think, as many times as I’ve answered it, it would be easy.

It’s never easy. Sometimes I think I’m somewhere around the bottom of the list in terms of respect society attributes to certain jobs. I’m a stay-at-home dad.

Don’t get me wrong. I chose to do this, and I’m glad I’m doing it. But too many times I’ve encountered cynicism about being a stay-at-home dad. “What did your children get you for Mother’s Day?” I’ll get asked. Or, “Oh, so you’re Debbie’s wife.” I’m a little sensitive about the question.

I looked up at him. This young man had lightly asked a question he didn’t know was loaded. Fortunately, he hadn’t noticed yet I was stalling. My brain worked feverishly on a reply.

I’ve read the replies some stay-at-home moms use, and they are very tempting to adopt. Christine Davidson, author of the book Staying Home Instead, once told a woman she operated a 24-hour-a-day child-care center. Because she was the director of the center, she said, she was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I know how she feels.

My wife Debbie, how stayed at home with the children for four years before I started my stint, used to say she was a homemaker. She always said it plain and simple, without excuse.

I could never use the term “homemaker.” Besides the feminine connotation, it reminds me of an old Steve Allen joke. (“Tell me, Tony, are you a good homemaker?” “Why, yes. Just last night I made it home about 4 a.m.”)

The man on the scaffolding continued to look down at me, waiting for me to say something. He tilted his head as if to ask if I’d heard him. I cleared my throat to gain a few more seconds.

It struck me that if I was so sensitive about this, what reasons could I have possibly had for becoming a stay-at-home dad?

I know why I did it. I did it because of my beliefs. Particularly when children are young, I believe the family works better when there is a parent at home. Family psychologist John Rosemond calls this “undeniable truth.”

I believe in my children. The time we spend with them is an investment in the future.

My wife believes this, too. It’s why she spent four years at home. But after four years, she told me it had just become too much for her.

We decided something would have to change, but what? What price were we willing to pay for extra years of parental guidance for our children? For me, what I was about to say would be part of the price.

I took a deep breath. “I’m a stay-at-home dad,” I said. Then I added quickly, “And I free-lance a little at writing.”

Chicken, I thought.

“Oh, really?” he said. “You know, I envy you. I wish I could stay home with my kids.”

I smiled at him. How refreshing, I thought. Maybe society is changing. Maybe, in time, my occupation will become a little more accepted. I would be very happy to see it.

And more than just a little relieved.