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28 February 2010

I Do. I Don't.

According to figures from January 2010, there are more than 14.8 million unemployed Americans, that’s a rate of nearly 10 percent.

A staggering figure.

Unless of course, you compare it to the rapid rate of divorce in this country.

I recently read one report that said the divorce rate in the U.S. for first marriages is 41%. The divorce rate for a second marriage is 60%. The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%.

Now I got a 620 on my SAT math, but those numbers just blow me away.

My wife and I have been married for more than 15 years, which seems like a world record based on those stats.

I have been out of work for the last 15 months, which doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment at all considering the current unemployment numbers.

During those 15 months, I have had several conversations with a former boss of mine, who I have worked with three different times.

From day one, 25 years ago, right up to our most recent conversation about a week ago, he has taught me about life, taught me about the working world, but most of all, he has taught me how to treat people.

Even though I don’t speak to him as much as I would like, I still value every conversation we have.

He still works at my former company, in another city, and is doing quite well. He always has plenty of thoughts on where I could go with my career, but unfortunately nothing has happened yet.

Last week when we spoke, we started talking about my life, but the conversation quickly turned to a major change in his.

Three months ago, my good friend learned that his wife was cheating on him and now their marriage is over.

Whoa. I didn’t see that coming.

Then again, it was his second marriage, so that should have been my first clue.

When we worked together, he always held himself accountable when something went wrong, even when it wasn’t his fault.

So I really shouldn’t have been that surprised that he pinned the divorce on himself.

“We would still be married if I had paid more attention to what she needed. If I had spotted signs earlier on, we’d still be married. I could’ve done little bits and pieces that would’ve made the difference.”

Slow down, this water is getting a little deep for me.

The more we talked, the more I realized that he was in a losing battle from the start.

It was nothing he actually did at home, but rather the fact that he was NEVER at home.

He has always been a workaholic and probably always will be.

It has earned him many awards, a very nice living and two divorces.

Of course, we can’t necessarily tie the long hours to the end of his married life, but as somebody who used to work 60+ hours a week, I definitely know the strain that it causes at home.

The fact that my marriage has survived, so far, through three jobs, in three cities, in three states, is a good sign.

But now as a stay-at-home parent, I have a true appreciation of what my wife really went through when I was not around.

I am not proud of what I am about to say, but honestly, I never put a whole lot of thought into all the chores and daily duties that my wife was doing at home while I was at work.

I guess in my mind, I justified all of my long hours as a way of supporting the family. My commitment to work provided us with a bunch of benefits, but little did I know the price that was being paid in my own home.

Someday, hopefully soon, I will be working again, but I know as sure as I am sitting here, that I will look at things a different way.

I may still have to work those 60+ hours and depending on where we live, I may have a longer commute, but I will make sure that whether I am physically home or not, my mind will be there.

My wife and kids deserve that. I deserve that.

One thing I have learned in my 42 years is that there is no rule book to life and there is no one way of surviving.

Marriage is no different.

The bottom line is you've got to do what's right for you.... and your family.

Unfortunately, my friend learned that the hard way.

25 February 2010

The Book Of Love

For the last 15 months, my therapist has learned a lot about me.

This week, I learned something about her.

She likes buying books from

Big books, little books, new books, old books.

Just books.

This week, she showed me a used book that she purchased called, “I Believe in You”.

Based on the title, I’m guessing its pretty inspirational, but we never made it to page one.

On the inside of the front cover was a handwritten note from a man to his daughter, dated Christmas 2000.


24 things to always remember and 1 thing to never forget.

  • your presence is a present to the world
  • you're unique and one of a kind
  • your life can be what you want it to be
  • take the days just one at a time
  • count your blessings, not your troubles
  • you’ll make it through whatever comes along
  • within you are so many answers
  • understand, have courage, be strong
  • don’t put limits on yourself
  • so many dreams are waiting to be realized
  • decisions are too important to leave to chance
  • reach for your peak, your goal, your prize
  • nothing wastes more energy than worrying
  • the longer one carries a problem, the heavier it gets
  • don’t take things too seriously
  • live a life of serenity, not a life of regrets
  • remember that a little love goes a long way
  • remember that a lot... goes forever
  • remember that friendship is a wise investment
  • life’s treasures are people... together
  • realize that it’s never too late
  • do ordinary things in an extraordinary way
  • have health and hope and happiness
  • take the time to wish upon a star
  • and don’t ever forget... for even a day, how VERY special you are.

I love you,


Thanks “Dad”.

Send this to someone you love.

Our world could use a little more positive energy.

24 February 2010

A Bumpy Ride

Last weekend in Las Vegas, we rode the roller coaster at the New York, New York hotel.

It was loaded with ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows.

Basically, it’s the same feeling I get as a member of the unemployed.

I have my good days and bad days, but I have been really fortunate to enjoy the majority of my time staying at home.

I enjoy my family.

I enjoy my free time.

I enjoy the opportunity to live.

What I don’t enjoy is this 900-pound gorilla on my back.

His name is FAILURE.

Failure doesn’t poke out his head very often, but when he does, it gets very ugly, very quickly.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of writing this blog has been the opportunity to speak my mind.

So here goes.

I am one of the lucky ones.

I have an incredible family -- a wife and three healthy children.

I enjoyed tremendous success working in the TV business since I was a freshman in college in 1985, winning five Emmy Awards.

I have an incredible support system, with friends who truly accept me as I am.

But even with all of that, the thought of being unemployed at this point in my life makes me feel like a... failure.

I just can’t come to grips with why I am still at home.

I know this is “just a phase”, and it is “just a matter of time”, and “good things are ahead”, but the bottom line is, I am still unemployed.

Fortunately, the negative feelings that I have are a small percentage of my day. In fact, for the most part, I feel that I am in a better place and more relaxed than I have ever been in my life.

In the last 15 months, I have found a new lifestyle that keeps my head above water.

Working out. Grocery shopping. Cleaning the house. Having lunch with my mom. Picking the kids up from school.

And that was just yesterday.

I don’t have any problems sleeping at night. I don’t have any problems getting up in the morning.

But one small slip-up and KABOOM -- failure takes over.

For example, when I got home from the grocery store, I grabbed the two bags from the back of my car.

As I walked towards the front of the house, one of the plastic bags ripped, dropping the groceries from my waist to the ground.

Just my luck, that was the bag with the pickle jar in it.

I heard the glass shatter and that was all it took.

I grabbed the two-pound bag of baby carrots and slammed it to the ground, watching the carrots fly around my driveway like it was ticker-tape parade for rabbits.

The cough drops were also an innocent victim as I stomped my size 11’s right on top of that bag.

Within seconds of this happening, my wife pulled into the driveway, giving her a front row seat for my tantrum.

I couldn’t have been more humiliated.

She tried to make a joke or two to lighten up the moment, but I wasn’t interested in visiting the Improv.

This was not my proudest moment, but it was real.

I have no explanation why a broken $3 bottle of pickles brought on the reaction that it did, but thankfully within moments, I calmed down, picked up the carrots, all of them, and moved on with the rest of my day.

Now that’s a ride I don’t want to get on again.

23 February 2010

On The Move?

Let’s get WAAAAAAAY ahead of ourselves here for a moment.

There is a very interesting dilemma on the horizon that, with any luck, could be playing itself out in the next couple of weeks.

Last night, I was cruising the internet job sites and found a couple of local jobs that speak to my experience.

If I am being honest, I would say that both jobs are a major step back in what used to be called my career.

The good news here is that both jobs are local.

That means that my kids stay in their same school and activities, my wife keeps her current job and our life returns to somewhat of what it used to be before getting laid off.

I’m sure both local jobs pay MUCH less than the job I had here before, but I'm sure we would find a way to make it work.

Scenario #2 is a lot more complicated.

There is a lead on a job -- which is just that at the moment, a lead on a job -- but if it plays out, it would be a SIGNIFICANT step up.

Then again, based on my current employment status, just about anything would be a significant step up.

As for this new job lead, next week I am scheduled to meet with the President of a very established company... ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not afraid to relocate, and I have plenty of practice of doing it.

As a kid, we moved a half-dozen times or more, living on both sides of this great nation.

In fact, I ended up going to four different high schools in three different cities on two different coasts.

As an adult, I moved West to East, 3,000 miles away, then seven years later, moved East back to West, then five years later, we moved again.

Personally, I have enjoyed all of the changes and opportunities to meet new people, but sometimes the NEW people didn’t enjoy meeting me.

Like my first day of 10th grade at my New Jersey High School when this California kid accidentally walked into the girl’s locker room. I was looking for the gym, but made a wrong turn... and a wrong first impression.

Somehow I survived.

I think it was Sophocles or Dylan who once said that history is usually our best guide and in my case, I feel like all this talk about moving is dejavu all over again.

When I was nine, my dad took a job, a good job, so that we could return to the city where we used to live. In doing so, he left the opportunity of his lifetime.

That new job for him was a VERY good one, in a city that we definitely loved, but as fate would have it, less than three years later, he was unemployed, through no fault of his own.

That sounds familiar.

He regretted that move for 22 years, until a massive heart attack claimed his life.

I’m certainly not implying that the two events are related, but now as an unemployed adult with three children, I have a much better understanding of what that decision must’ve done to him.

Looking back, I know for a fact that my mom and I pressured him, not intentionally, to take the “lesser” job so that we could get back to our hometown, a decision that I wish I could take back.

My wife and kids have made it clear that they are willing to move wherever it would take to make me happy and I know that’s the truth.

But IF there is a way to stay where we are at, that would be their choice number one.

Like I said, we are WAY too early in this new game, to make any decisions, but in the end the choice may come down to staying here in a job or moving across the country for a career.

I know how my dad would vote.

22 February 2010

My Little Mitzvah

According to, the first definition of karma is:

  • action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation

Based on that, I definitely believe in karma.

I wouldn’t say that I spend a whole lot of time thinking or worrying about it, but I definitely try to do what’s right, believing that in the end, the good people win and the bad people don’t.

That theory has been tested, oh, about nine million times since I was forced out of work nearly 15 months ago.

Why are the people who did this still working, while so many of us are not?

What kind of karma is that?

Well, the third definition of our word of the day, is:

  • fate; destiny

I guess, there’s still time for the good guys to win.

This morning, as my wife left for school, she asked if I would be able to make a doctor’s appointment today for our six-year old, who had developed a rash.

Considering the empty lines on my daily planner, I was excited to have something significant to do.

The news at the doctor’s office was all good. He mentioned something about how her follicles were enflamed, but that a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream should do the trick.

As we drove out of the parking lot to take my daughter back to school, I noticed something on the hood of my car.

Taking a closer look, it was somebody’s wallet.

Our appointment was in a two-building medical complex, each four stories high, so finding the owner of the wallet was not really an option. In addition, there is no reception area, so I had no place to leave it.

I explained to my six-year old that we needed to find the owner so that someday someone would do something nice for us.

I figured explaining karma would be a much more difficult concept.

I looked through the wallet, but I couldn’t find a phone number, just a driver’s license, credit card, library card and medicare card.

No problem, I would just look online and grab her phone number. That’s what the internet is for, right?

Strike one.

So, I then called her credit card company to see if they would be able to get ahold of her, which they said they would try.

As luck would have it, when I dropped my daughter off at school, there was a police officer in the parking lot.

I explained my situation and the officer tracked down a phone number. When I called, I got an answering machine with a man’s voice on it, but I left a message just in case.

A couple hours later, a VERY appreciative Mary returned my call.

We agreed to meet at a nearby Starbucks and when I got there, she was waiting in her car, with the motor running.

I smiled and handed her the wallet. She immediately reached out and gave me an envelope.

No thanks, I said, “that’s not necessary”.

She insisted, saying that there was a note that she wanted me to read and then she stuck the envelope in my hand.

Before I could say anything, she was gone.

Inside the envelope was a crisp new $20 bill, definitely an unnecessary, but much appreciated gesture.

On the outside, her note read:

  • the bible tells plainly that the man who maintains integrity of heart "‘will be blessed". It’s a blessing to me to have your example - I’m sure the police, Visa, etc. were also touched by your actions.

That sure sounds like karma to me.

21 February 2010

Did You Hear The One About...

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a comedian. I’ll never forget the time in 5th grade, when a girl told me I could be the next Mork.

Note: for those of you under 30, without Mork (and Mindy), we would’ve never met Mrs. Doubtfire or Patch Adams.

I really do love making people laugh, but I have never had it in me to do it in front of an audience. I couldn’t imagine doing stand-up comedy, but I would love to write the jokes.

In comedy, there is something referred to as a callback, that’s when a joke in the standup set refers to one previously told earlier in the routine.

Well, where better than Las Vegas for me to LIVE a comedy callback.

(Insert harp music and the slow flashback dissolve.)

Wednesday night, we departed for Sin City, all five of us, to watch my 12-year old daughter perform in her national dance event. Two years ago it was in Cincinnati, last year Orlando, this year Las Vegas.

With that kind of upgrade rate, I’m thinking Bora Bora could be next.

The first night of the trip was also my son’s 11th birthday, so being in Vegas it was a great excuse to go to a restaurant that we couldn’t really afford on our unemployed budget to celebrate the occasion.

Considering my wife is as an avid viewer of The Food Network, I thought I could hit a home run by taking the family to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace.

I had been there once before, on an expense account, so I knew what a great meal we were in for.

I figured since nobody in my family drinks, except for me, as long as I could stick with the tap water, we could get out of there at a reasonable price.

Well, reasonable for an expensive place in Vegas.

The service was fantastic. The atmosphere was terrific. My son and wife and two daughters were having a blast.

They all believed they were judges on the Iron Chef.

I actually was enjoying myself so much that I didn’t spend the ENTIRE time computing the bill in my head, just most of it.

We had an amazing appetizer, the Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale.

We had several rounds of the cornbread muffins and jalapeno bread.

Then it was time for the main course:

Green Chile Cioppino, a 22 oz Bone In Chipotle Glazed Rib-Eye and the “house specialty” New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin.

One bite was better than the next.

The meal was SO good that my kids actually enjoyed the Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans & Pomegranate Seeds.

Midway through the entrees, I had actually forgotten that there would be a bill coming at the end.

This mission was truly accomplished.

Well, almost.

As everyone else started to wind down, and prepare for dessert, I felt it my obligation to make sure there was nothing left on any of the plates.

So I took my stab at the final pieces of the Pork Tenderloin.

I hope my late Jewish father is not reading this.

The flavors were jumping off my fork, truly one of the best meals of my life, until....

.... huh, what’s that?

I slowly lowered my fork, so I could use both hands to pull out a SEVEN-INCH BLONDE HAIR.

WHAT! I didn’t see that on the menu.

With every inch I pulled out of my mouth, my family got more and more disgusted.

And they were JUST the audience.

I must’ve looked like one of those circus clowns pulling a long scarf out of my mouth.

Now, when I say it was seven inches, I didn’t actually measure it, but it was the long enough to braid and long enough to make my dark-haired family gag.

We immediately called over the first waiter we saw, who took it into the kitchen to show to our waiter.

It was like watching a crime scene as they held the hair up to the light.

How ironic, considering that Bobby Flay’s wife has been on Law & Order, Special Victims Unit for the last ten years.

Considering that our waiter was, let’s just say, “follically challenged”, he was no longer a suspect, making him the happiest person there, even though he definitely didn’t show it.

My wife made it VERY clear, immediately, that it was time to go, which meant no dessert for my 11-year old’s birthday.

I asked her again, but everyone was so disgusted that we needed to go, NOW.

Now considering that we have frequented every fast food establishment in the world, I have no doubt that each of us has ended up with something much worse than a hair in our food, but that was the last thing we expected at the Mesa Grill.

After their examination in the kitchen, our waiter rushed over to apologize. Moments later his manager came to do the same.

I think “I’m sorry” was first. I think it was followed by “I hope this didn’t ruin your meal”.

It was all a daze at that point to be honest.

He asked if we wanted something for dessert.

I was thinking the hairless and flourless chocolate cake could be good, but I couldn’t get the words out before my wife said NO.

He somewhat apologized again, I think, although to be perfectly honest, I didn’t get that the feeling that he was nearly as humiliated as we were.

Then again, he didn’t actually taste the hair from the $36 tenderloin.

Somewhere, my dad is muttering something about, “that’s why WE don’t eat pork”. Thanks Dad.

The manager left and moments later, the check arrived. As you might imagine, the pork had been removed from the bill.

But that was it.

I’ve never run a restaurant, although I did deliver pizza in college, so I am not really qualified to say how the restaurant should’ve handled this.

But as a customer, I was VERY disappointed.

I was disappointed that my son didn’t get cake on his birthday.

I was disappointed that my wife didn’t LOVE her dream meal.

But I was also disappointed that they didn’t make me feel like they really cared that THERE WAS A SEVEN-INCH BLONDE HAIR IN MY PORK TENDERLOIN!

Believe it or not, to me it was no longer about the money.

We paid the bill and moved on. But with each step we walked away from the restaurant, I got more and more annoyed.

I don’t really know what they SHOULD have done, I just know what they did.

And what they did was make us tell EVERYONE we saw the next day about our meal and how it was handled.

You just can’t buy that type of publicity, right?

Now that I am home, I am going to contact their home office to make them aware of the situation. I don’t expect anything, but I just feel like they should be aware.

Who knows, maybe Bobby will come to my house for a little Throwdown.

The rest of the trip to Vegas was great. We had a blast at my daughter’s competition. She performed very well and it was really fantastic. I’ll leave my review of the event for another blog.

On our way out of town, we did what most people who used to live in the West do, stop at In N’ Out Burger.

Being that rebel that I am, I always love ordering off the “secret menu” -- that means a double-double, protein style & animal style, light sauce, with well-done fries and a neapolitan milk shake.

Six of us ate for a grand total of $32.

For those of you counting at home, that’s $4 less than the Tenderloin.

(I know what we are doing for my son’s 12th birthday.)

We ended up going at the peak lunch time, so while we were making order #66, they were delivering order #42. At one point, the line to order must’ve been 50 deep, almost out the door.

Are they serving burgers or crack?

Well, when we got our order, it was hot and correct, like every other time I had gone there, so they must be doing something right.

Midway through my burger, my daughter went outside to visit with some of her friends, leaving me to enjoy every well done fry.

In N’ Out’s slogan is, “That’s what a hamburger is all about” and they are not kidding.

This mission was truly accomplished.

Well, almost.

As I was completing my meal, my daughter came back inside, with the lid off her cup and showed me....

... a hair in her milkshake.


This has got to be a Vegas joke, right? Well, Don Rickles was performing at our hotel.

This had to be the ultimate Vegas comedy callback.

I took the shake up to the manager, who immediately apologized, gave us a new shake AND a voucher for a free meal the next time we are near an In N’ Out.

Perhaps she had more practice with this sort of issue than the Mesa Grill, but her apology felt sincere and was much appreciated.

Once again, I would have to go to the restaurant manager handbook to find out if she handled it the appropriate way, but I can tell you my daughter enjoyed her new shake and I enjoyed the fact that they appeared to care.

Two VERY different restaurants with two similar scenarios.

I'm ready for another double-double.

And that's no joke.