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!


Money, Beer, and the Cost of Being Free

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My needs are simple: a hearty tax shelter, healthy pension, robust health insurance, generous sick days, fully stocked fridge, a little extra cash after paying the rent, and seven beers, preferably craft or imported.

My tastes are sort of set in their ways.

That, and—of course—perfect health for my wife and kids, is all I need, on top of the basics of modern First World living. Forget a new house, car, clothes, and forget Paris. Give me the know-how of there being enough beer in the fridge for the end of a long day of hard work where I’ve earned every dollar. I want to hear that clink-clink when the fridge door is open. I’m not asking to drink seven beers a night, but I want the financial freedom to enjoy one or two if I want, and to have seven more in the fridge waiting for me, for tomorrow or the weekend.

I want the ability to drink or share with the wife or friends—it might be a Bourbon and ginger ale, or a gin and tonic, but the principle remains. I want that bordering-hoarder pleasure of having luxury in reserve, when I want. I want that financial freedom.

And eventually I’ll have it. Maybe when the kids are out of college. I don’t want to die on my feet a sweaty worker who didn’t know how to be smart about money, especially in my American lower-middle-class world, where I’ve been privileged enough to reach a point and skill set that can guide me towards a retirement and help me provide for my children until they can provide for themselves.

What is a dollar? 

Let’s talk about $7—specifically the amount (give or take sixty cents) it costs to afford seven beers or seven burgers or seven of something in your refrigerator. That seven dollars is swallowed up by the big picture—the cost of the fridge, electricity, the contents within—plus the pantry and its accoutrements. That $7 is a small slice of rent or a mortgage, or of a movie ticket or water bill. You know what things cost. The cost of take-out versus a week of groceries, the price of beer and coffee versus milk, and the cost of luxury, however simple, versus holding out until you really deserve that luxurious finish, whatever it may be.



13 Easy Steps to Achieving Enlightenment, Total Perspective, and Complete Self-Awareness and Self-Actualization (Reduced)

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As the somewhat obvious yet profound saying goes about perspective, it really does all depend on how you look at it. Wherever you are in life, there is some struggle or suffering that you’re going through or about to go through. Somehow it’s always inevitable whether you’re a student, parent, young individual, or fledgling professional (or anyone in-between). But if you’re prepared with the right set of eyes (and most of us aren’t), then you’ll be able to tackle any setback, obstacle, or low point, all in good time. So forget trying to achieve Maslow’s highest level of Self-Actualization.

Forget trying to be perfect. You can even forget trying to fulfill your true potential, if just for a while. And you can even stop forgetting forgetting, as the Yogis and Jedis teach. What you might need is sharp, willful perspective, and a heavy dose of reality to get you to where you should be (and maybe where you want to be).

Here’s how.

1. Start with your death bed and work backwards.

There are three ultimate and undeniable realities: Death, Nature, and the Unknown. The sooner you realize you’re incapable of controlling these three, the sooner you’ll feel a little release from Life’s cool grip. As you are dying a long time from now, who will you be surrounded by and what will your final wish be? What will you have let go of? If you can imagine your life from your final moment backwards to right now, then you’ll have constructed enough timelines to know what you really want (which might not be what you think you want). This isn’t meant to make you mediate on your own death, but rather to jostle you out of the current moment and consider the long arc of your life.

2. You’re going to get old (and be old) for a while. 

Consider this: between your twenties and retirement, you will live almost three lifetimes as you did between birth and the age of twenty. And then you’re going to have a brand new life in retirement. Most men die around seventy-six, and most women out-live men by ten to fifteen years (often twenty). Those nice, old church ladies? They’re living a second and third life after career and children, many of them in retirement and then widowed. Life is long and you’re going to have time, so prepare for early mornings and long afternoons, and plenty of time to look back to now and wish you knew what to change – and change it while you’re young. That should take some of the pressure off, but know that the dreams you’re not getting around to right now might be waiting for you on the other side of life, when the world will still belong to the young, fast ones.



The Hour of My Almost Belief: How Buddha Boy Changed One Atheist

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“Between the Pope and air conditioning,” says Harry Block of Woody Allen’s 1997 Deconstructing Harry, “I’d choose air conditioning.”

The Pope, however, does have a castle. And cool outfits. But the sentiment of that quote, that in our modern age an individual would choose science, technology, and convenience over mythology (and the anxiety that comes with belief)—remains appropriate, especially in this modern age where “Nones” and “Dones” are growing in numbers while the faithful are seeing declines like never before.

In a world of full of air conditioning, bottled water, Pop Tarts, seedless watermelons, and endless computers in the hands of children, it’s easy for nonbelievers to rely on modern convenience and leave the possessions, miracles, and conversions to badly produced religious movies (and some well produced Hollywood films) and tall tales, where they belong. There are no miracles, there is no Devil, and most parents will choose medicine over straight “prayer-changes-things” sessions any day. We’re awash in a non-religious reality, the whole Western world over.


PHOTO: Ella Ruth

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.



You, Me, America: Why I’m Running for President

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Here we go! My latest Bergamot Ink column has the big dream of running for President laid out, and between now and November 2016 I’ll be building this campaign as part of a life-long dream of running for President.

I know! Insane. But I’ve been able to pursue most of the things I love in life, but this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime goals that, if I don’t do it now, I will never be able to.

Be part of the fun!


And please visit and share the Official McKeen the Dream in 2016 Facebook page.