How to Write 50 Essays in 9 Short Months

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Bergamot Ink logoSince April I’ve been working on a column—Bergamot Ink—with the The Good Men Project, which is why I let Nerdy Dad Shirt go untrimmed, and for good reason.

I started Nerdy Dad Shirt three years ago this week, and eventually when I was writing essays that I was proud of, I decided to challenge myself to write 100 essays (good or bad).

“100 essays” turned into “100 posts” (as any good writer and blogger will know the difference), and, as I started writing for other publications and got syndicated, I sort of lost count.

I’ll count them up and get back to you.

So here—parked—are my latest essays for your enjoyment. Please share if you’d like!

AND if you’re a writer, I’m also an editor would love to help you get published. Let’s talk.

Read on and Share!

What Men Hear Vs. What Women Hear—When Will Things Be Heard Equally?

God Isn’t a Bad Word (It’s Just One We Don’t Use)—Raising Children Without Religious Belief

7 Reasons Why I’m Done with Star Wars

9 Ways We Can Truly Save Christmas (Once and for All)

‘Meet Your Second Wife’ Cuts Deep and is Uncomfortably Hilarious

Han Solo, Captain Picard, or Mr. Spock? How to Decide What to Do in Life (When You Don’t Know What To Do)

The Science of Parenthood: Poop, Chemistry, and Duct Tape

5 Easy Steps to Staying Married Forever

Unbrand Yourself Today!

What Does Life After God Sound and Look Like?

13 Ways You Can Achieve Total Perspective


See you next week!


Teaching Peace, Teaching War: A Pacifist Reflects

“Go and teach Jeremy how to play with G.I. Joes,” I remember a relative saying to one of my older cousins when I was six. I had just received my first G.I. Joe action figure and I was already well versed in the world of Star Wars toys, although the small guns that came with them weren’t allowed in my  pacifist home. My cousin introduced me to the soldier leader toy, “Duke,” and I was hooked—like any child would be. There is something life-altering for a young boy when he holds his first toy soldier and learns to maneuver, shoot, and maim (although all fans of similar toys and their t.v.-show related franchises know that somehow cartoons never actually suffer).

Toy soldiers never die, you know.

I knew my father would object because we had a strict “no guns” policy when it came to toys; a decade earlier he had stood up against the Vietnam war as a conscientious objector after being first in the draft, and was handed his papers to be shipped off to war. He refused service before a judge, married, and lived, working for the state to stave off his service. I was born a few years later. In my adulthood I also chose nonviolence as a philosophy, borrowing from Tolstoy, Thoreau, Ghandi, Dr. King, and a host of heroes and heroines who simply said and say no to all violence. As a high school teacher, however, I am often challenged with the reality that my students—who I admire, cherish, and would save from death if I could—join the Armed Forces and are called to violence across the world.

For my generation there has been no great war—men and women my age escaped a large statist calamity, only to have the slightly next generation suffer at the hands of lawyers-turned-statesmen who ushered us into more than a decade of “real” war in the Middle East. But high school kids—especially those who live in the inner-city where I teach—are often prime real estate for the picking for an all-volunteer army that always needs soldiers.



Why I Am the Most Fortunate Brother of All

To my dear brother, my own kin, my side-by-side man, who is my cousin – I celebrate you, us, life itself, our mothers. There is nothing else that can bind us more, and we have the entire expanse of life to explore. I have wanted you as my own brother, my friend, my secret sharer and companion since we first met. To call you brother is the most natural thing I can think, and when I think of my life, I think of you. I count your years along with my own, and measure my life in step with yours – I am this many years, you are this many minus three. How old are you now? In line with my years. How is your health and wealth and happiness? Measured along with the length of my reach to have you by my side until we grow old and share a seat at the diner down the street.

To my dear sister, my younger one, my half-twin, who is also my cousin – I celebrate the same, today, forever. To call you sister is what I’ve always wanted, to be the older brother you can count on, and, along with your brother, be counted among the moments and movements of my life. This is my life, and there you are – part of me – and me, part of you. We are life itself and the tale humans have told since siblings walked tall among plains somewhere. Since day one you were the youngest, the last, the protected we somehow were sworn to shield. I count my blessings more than twice, and you are there, all along. My own. Corner booth, same diner, the lot of us.

To my foster brothers and sister who are out there somewhere: you were my only siblings I ever had, if only for months (how does an only child have bunk beds?) – I have thought of you long upon these years, and we are almost reaching middle age and slowing down enough to find that it’s time for some third act where we recount the years and missed connections, and parallel timelines, and wishes never granted. To my best men and friends, who are also my chosen brothers in life, who have known me in my formative years, and shared the pangs of foolish maturation, I lay down my life for you easily, as we should. There is no wedding or birthday complete without some revelry with you nearby – or there used to be, before we all moved away; there is no thought of my life without counting you and your babies, who share the same years with my children. Life has given us this one go-around, and it means everything that I could have you too. We shall grow old, cursing and blessing the Earth together as we share bourbon and song on porches as our children take our places in the great, wide world. We shall sneak cigarettes behind the house and the wives will be no wiser, although the wives are often wiser.

And to my brothers and sisters who died young, whose caskets and memorials and graves I have stood next to, wishing for more time, wishing to have known you better – you are with me in my drive to work, in the corners of rooms I sit alone in, and when I feel my age and my pinpoint in time. You are with me when I wish the world was set right. I am fortunate to have known you and to carry you in memory. I am never at a loss for words when I talk with you.



Make a Relentlessly Neighborly Meme!

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Actually, that’s what it’s all about, sociologically, anthropologically, geopolitically speaking.

With so much drama in the world today, someone gave Julie Baker guff about her backyard ornaments, and it caused a stir, and then an internet explosion, and then I made this meme, and then I got to interview her for the Good Men Project.

Please read and share my interview here and support Julie on her website.

And please, take the above meme, make your own version, and share!

You May Already Be A Superhero!

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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of the pre-Gatsby James Gatz, “So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would like to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.” It’s this concept – that a seventeen year old would create a larger-than-life figure to grow into – that is the basis for every superhero tale from Gilgamesh to Harry Potter.

To celebrate Avengers: Age of Ultron (and ALL the new superhero movies, books, and graphic novels), it is prudent to look at the archetypes that make every meta-human, mutant, demigod, and Time Lord worth their weight in adamantium. You are probably living an origin story right now, and soon you’ll have more responsibility and power than you hoped for.

For starters:

You’re probably living in the city, an ambiguous 20-something, and single.

You’re probably an orphan of some sort, and with a sad or mysterious story about being so. If you live in the country, you’ll soon be somehow called into the city to meet some great fate, whether it be a dragon (or dragon archetype) or some interstellar artificial intelligence/alien. Either way, no superhero stays in the country (or country of origin). Almost every fight ends up on Earth, in America, and usually in New York City. So just move to New York City.

You’re an introverted and somewhat – or totally – nerdy teen with a propensity for all things S.T.E.M.

Is there a girl (or boy) who you just can’t get? And are you a misfit or reject of some sort? Just wait – you’ll be bit, zapped, or injected with gamma-rays or something radioactive, or your mutant powers will grow as your puberty finishes. Just wait for an owl to deliver a letter from a balding man, or a long-lost father to invite you to the dark side.

You happen to be a Goddess, God, Demigod, Planetary Traveler, Alien, Other-worldly royalty, or Inter-dimensional Being.

Do you have a legacy to uphold here on terra firma, while also fighting for your throne back home? You might just be on your way to join a superhero team or save Earth from the demons or villains who also happen to be from your home world. Or you might be orphaned on Earth. Or you might just hide out here because we have all the good movie and fast food franchises. Any way you slice it, you’ll probably get the same billing as the normal human with the bow and arrow.

Originally published on The Good Men Project – finish reading here!

Sex, Gender, and Manhood: Lessons From Bruce Jenner’s Coming Out

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What we can learn from Bruce Jenner’s coming out and where we’re headed as a society regarding our transgender friends and family.

Bergamot Ink logoAt sixty-five years old, Bruce Jenner might be doing for the transgender movement what years of political posturing and movements couldn’t quickly accomplish for women, minorities, workers, and the LGBQ community during the initial years between inception and accepted societal acclamation. He – still a he during Diane Sawyer’s interview Friday night on 20/20 and soon to be identified at his request as a she after living as a transitioning woman for the next year – is helping win over the media, parts of society, and hopefully the GOP (and mainstream churches, is that too much to ask?) to a worldview that accepts transgender people without reservation. As a national celebrity, Christian, Republican, and former accomplished and world-acclaimed athlete (and not to mention senior citizen), Bruce Jenner just became the greatest figure for the movement and at the same time probably one of its most polarizing figures. Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner on Friday night was the perfect marriage of a historic and cultural moment for years to come. Here’s what we should be taking away from this watershed moment.

1. Hopefully Jenner will make good on his idea to take the pleas of the Transgender Community to Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner.

As transgender issues come to the forefront of society including the military, marriage, public policy, and health care coverage, all politicians and lobbyists will need persuasion toward the defense of the transgender community concerning children, teens, and adults, including military personnel and prisoners. The national discussion on same-sex marriage has just become commonplace in America, only after two national elections where it was at the forefront of debate. Only recently have we seen a shift in cultural attitudes towards same-sex marriage, and it took forty years or so to get to that point. And already – in what seems like less than a few years of media attention including film, television, and documentary, we’re seeing major magazines carrying lead stories regarding trans-youth as well as a whole week of NBC coverage on the stories of transgendered children of differing ages.

2. Sexuality is who you go to bed with, while Gender is who you go to bed as. 

While even this proverb guides a discussion on gender and sexuality issues, Jenner’s interview touched on the fact that he was and is not gay and was (and is) very much attracted to women, although, at sixty-five he considers himself “asexual” although very hesitant to think about fully transitioning into having, as Khloe Kardashian encouraged him to embrace, a “vajayjay.” Maybe Jenner was being cute with Sawyer. It’s taken years for Americans to understand that we feel platonic, romantic, and sexual attraction from a very young age which eventual puts us somewhere on the straight/gay spectrum. Even Jenner seemed like he was still wrapping his head around being a woman but not being attracted to men. This will take time for mainstream moderate American society to process, but perhaps much younger viewers are already getting it. Judging from comic Amy Schumer’s recent “Amy Goes Deep” segment on her show wherein she interviews self-proclaimed transsexual pornography actress Bailey Jay (who is “married to a straight man”), Ms. Jay explains her life as a transsexual very clearly, and that’s that – in a two minute interview on a comedy show we get more clarity than two hours of Jenner and Sawyer hemming and hawing about certain issues. But it’s not always that easy, and not every sexual or gender identification can be summed up in a short segment. Younger audiences may just get the whole transgender and transsexual identity crisis (or lack thereof) because, well, they’re younger and without the years of traditional society heaped upon their frontal lobes the way the baby boomers had it.

3. A world-class athlete, celebrity, Christian, and Republican man just told Diane Sawyer, “I am a woman.”

Wow. What does a post-WASP American society do with that? What does the scientific community do with that? What do the politicos do with that? Is gender now whatever we want to call it or is it a fixed thing? Even for the most progressive heterosexual liberals, this is cause for discussion and research. As a straight male, husband, father of three, and high school teacher, I’m extremely interested in learning about humans, the brain, and identity. Jenner claims he has a female brain, but scientifically, apart from the fact that male brains have the Y chromosome and female brains don’t, there isn’t much difference that we know of. So is it all nurture? Is it all chemical? These are some of the questions science will have to answer, and until then we have overwhelming testimonies of those who have felt, since their first feelings, that they were identified as the wrong gender.

4. No matter how much fame and fortune you have, if you don’t feel whole as a person, then you don’t feel whole as a person.

Bruce Jenner is the one percent of the top one percent of the world: he has worldwide fame and accomplishment, popularity, riches, has had three marriages and has fathered ten children. What else is there to life? What potential has he not filled? The answer is that there, all along, in his own brain, he needed something else, and that something else has been the acceptance, of himself and by himself, of that as a woman, pure and simple. For him he needs to feel and be as the “her” Jenner has always felt to be. This is far beyond the “abomination” verses in the Levitical law that Jenner and most religious Americans will cite, in that, at the end of the day, this is a real identity issue and needs to be treated as one for all people…

Please read and share the rest for free at The Good Men Project Bergamot Ink Weekly Column and thank you!