Saturday, December 25, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Lesley on winning the first ever "Get To" Giveaway. The two finalists were only separated by 25 votes. Votes were cast from across the country and even in Europe, Asia, and South America!

Thank you to both of our finalists, Lesley and Jennifer, for having the courage to share your stories. We sincerely believe that 2011 will be a great year for both of you and we look forward to following up with you to see where your journey takes you.

We would also like to thank The Heldrich Hotel for their generous contribution to our "Get To" Giveway. Their philanthropic spirit of supporting the local community is admirable and we truly appreciate their generosity. Courtesy of The Heldrich Hotel, Lesley will receive a one-night stay, as well as breakfast for two the following morning at Christopher’s Restaurant and Bar.

During this holiday season and beyond, we hope that everyone "pays it forward".

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries for the "Get To" Giveaway and also to all our voters! Great things are coming in 2011. Stay tuned!



Sunday, December 19, 2010

And The Finalist Are...

Thank you to all who submitted entries for the "Get To" Giveaway. We are excited to announce our 2 finalists, Lesley and Jennifer (who is submitting on behalf of her parents Leigh and Paul). The winner will now be decided by you, our readers. The poll is located at the bottom of this post, as well as on the sidebar of our homepage. You can only cast one vote, so choose the most compelling story. The poll will stay open until 11:59pm on December 24th.

To read the submissions by Lesley and Jennifer, click here or follow the link to Meet the "Get To" Giveaway Finalists under the picture on the home page.

The "Get To" Giveaway winner will receive a one night stay generously donated by the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, NJ, as well as an opportunity to become a biweekly contributor to our blog.

Good luck to our finalists!

--- Voting Is Closed ---




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Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick Contest Q & A and DEADLINE EXTENSION!

We've received a few emails from prospective "'Get to' Giveaway" applicants and thought it might be helpful to post a quick Q & A for our readers.

Q) I'm not unemployed, but I've had a rough year. Can I apply?
A) YES! Although the focus of our blog has been on our journey through employment struggles, this contest is not limited to those in the same situation. If you've had a rough year, apply!

Q) I don't think I'm a good writer. I'm not sure I would be the right person to win the "guest blog" opportunity.
A) We recognize that not everyone likes to write and not everyone is comfortable making public of their personal issues. We, however, have found the process to be cathartic and will gladly edit and provide content suggestions for you (if you win!). However, don't let this be your deal-breaker. While we think it's a nice thing to offer and we're happy to share your story, if it's way beyond your comfort zone, we can let you slide.

Q) I just found out about this contest and don't know if I can make the deadline.
A) In the spirit of the season, we are going to extend the application deadline to NOON on Saturday, December 18th.

So... there you have it! We know it's been a rough year for so many people, let us help you forget your worries, if even only for a night!



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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paying it Forward - A Contest

This has been a rough year.

But, this year also provided many moments of greatness. In January, my husband and I were the lucky recipients of a weekend of respite, thanks to the philanthropic spirit of a local establishment. We, along with 11 other couples, won the opportunity to participate in The Blue Bay Inn’s, “Hotel for the Holidays”.  For two nights, we joined others in a similar situation.  We stayed in a boutique hotel room, were treated to delicious meals from The Copper Canyon, were visited by Human Resource representatives to provide job-hunting tips to the group, relaxed to performances by local musicians and were inspired by the voices of a local children’s choir. At this time, my husband had been out of work for four months and we had no idea how long and trying the months ahead were going to be.

We also didn’t know, and couldn’t anticipate, how much my husband and I would learn about each other during this time – about our priorities, our fears, our passions. We worked well together as a team and spent a lot of time talking, and soul-searching and talking some more. We were inspired by the comments of our readers and humbled by their shared experiences. In a strange way, we found comfort in knowing we weren’t alone.

And now, almost a year later, things seem to be looking up for us. Yet, we know so many families still struggling. Although there is a lot of legitimate focus about how unemployment or underemployment contribute to the sacrifice of basics such as food, utilities, etc., we have first hand experience at understanding the stress of not having sufficient income to maintain (or advance) our quality of life. This stress limits the frequency of date nights, family adventures and opportunities to relax. When times get tough, our relationships are what help us keep it together. But, often our relationships become secondary to employment struggles. Now we have a chance to pay forward the gift we were given last season.

In the spirit of the holidays, A Life Unexpected is pleased to announce “The ‘Get to’ Giveaway”. One lucky winner of “The ‘Get to’ Giveaway” will receive:

1)      A gift certificate from The Heldrich Hotel (New Brunswick, New Jersey), good for a one night (weekend) stay at this luxurious hotel. In addition to the overnight stay, our lucky winner will also receive breakfast for two the following morning at Christopher’s Restaurant and Bar.

2)      A bi-weekly (every-other-week) guest blog spot on “A Life Unexpected”, providing an opportunity to share your perspective on your “unexpected life” for the next three months.

3)      If unemployed/underemployed, an opportunity for you to post your resume, personal/professional statement and cover letter on our blog, to increase your visibility and job prospects.


Submit your story to us via email and explain why this year has been difficult and what this opportunity could mean for you. Be creative! We welcome photo montages, videos, poems, artwork, songs, etc. Please conclude your submission with at least five reasons for which you have to be thankful, despite the difficulties you’re experiencing (think back to our “I Get to…” blog entry). 

Do you know someone who has had a rough year and could benefit from the "Get To" Giveaway? Feel free to submit on his/her behalf. In addition to your submission, please include a signed letter (from the nominee) authorizing permission to be entered in this contest.

A Life Unexpected will pick the finalists for the second round of the competition, during which our readers will have an opportunity to vote for the most compelling submission and ultimately help determine our winner!

Important dates to know:

1)      Round 1: Submissions due by 11:59pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, December 15th
2)      Round 2: Finalists will be posted by 11:59pm Eastern Time on Sunday, December 19th
3)      Voting for Round 2 will end at 11:59pm Eastern Time on December 24th. “The ‘Get to’ Giveaway” winner will be announced on Saturday, December 25th!

Send your Round 1 submissions to us at:  alifeunexpected.jtm@gmail.com 

 Good luck! 


For complete rules and regulations, visit: http://alifeunexpected-jtm.blogspot.com/p/get-to-give-away.html
or click on the "Get To" Giveaway link on our homepage.
 

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Brave New World

It was a Monday not unlike other Mondays I’ve known. I woke up before the sun rose. I got dressed by the light of my cell phone so I didn’t disturb my sleeping wife. I had laid out my clothes the night before to avoid any potential wardrobe malfunctions. I kissed my wife goodbye and kindly reminded her to put money on the EZ Pass since we were way overdue. When you are unemployed, things like putting money on the EZ Pass just have to wait. But this day was going to be a big day.

I have been unemployed for 14 of the last 15 months. For 15 months, my life has been in a holding pattern, just trying to stay afloat. All of this…our crowded house, the start of my career, the penny-pinching…was supposed to be in my rearview mirror distantly down the road. But it’s not. I’m still here…but not for very long. On this day, I started my new job.

Traveling through traffic to get to work, I feel completely conflicted. I know that my son will wake up soon after I leave and will inevitably ask my wife, “Where’s Dad?” and this hurts my heart. I’ve been so accustomed to always just being there for him…for everything. So has he. My wife and I joke that my son goes through “Mommy and Daddy” phases, where he exhibits a preference for one of us. For the first 2 years of his life his “daddy” phases were short-lived – perhaps lasting a week or less. But, for the first time in his life, my son has been on a “daddy” phase for over a month. Perhaps he subconsciously knew I was starting a new job. Regardless, I would never want to pass up this bonding time.

During my unemployment, I was a first-hand witness to my son’s remarkable growth. At first, we struggled to get through some days (okay, maybe most days). I was happy for a 30 minute reprieve to watch Diego save the Tapir. But, we persevered. As he grew, our days and time together just weren’t long enough. At 2 ½, he expresses such complex thoughts. Instead of mimicking my words, we can have real conversations about his infinite inquiries. Most days I just can’t get enough.

And because of these things, somewhere along my journey, I deconstructed and reassembled my goals and priorities. While I once dreamed of climbing the proverbial professional ladder, I now dream of being with my family. It’s a constant balancing act. But, this time, I feel I’ve found a job that allows me to prioritize what is most important to me. The lucrative bonuses and profit-sharing are non-existent, but those “luxuries” come at cost – one in which I am not willing to accept. I’ve made that mistake in the past. I’ll trade those financial luxuries any day to spend more time with my family.

It’s true that my journey may have started with uncertainty, embarrassment, and even fear. I most certainly have avoided conversations to side step any probing questions about my employment. However, I’ve learned that a job is just a means to providing an existence. My personal wealth is defined by the moments of joy I get from my family – not by some corporate financial structure.

As I sat in traffic on the way to my new job, a lot of my previous insecurities flashed in my head. Am I good enough? Will the same thing happen again? Can I seamlessly transition? Can I balance it all? Will I have enough time with my wife and son? Of course there will be times when I will be asked to make sacrifices. Some days I may not even get to see my son and wife. However, most days I will have to sacrifice very little family time. So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to have a job when so many people are still losing their jobs, or worse. I persevered…I survived. It’s bittersweet.

As a bonus, I no longer need to avoid those probing conversations about my job and identity. I now have an answer.

I am a husband.
I am a dad.
I am a man that has taken an unexpected journey and found out a lot about myself along the way. I’m embarking on a brave new world.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Humbled, Honored and Hopeful

New to the world of blogging, we are honored to have been nominated for one of the top Daddy Blogs in the country. We've never been on a talk show or the feature of a magazine article. We're really just regular people trying to carve out some good in a complicated, fast-paced world.

That being said, it's not like we haven't crossed our fingers that someday we might get a phone call from a publisher or a producer (ehem!). But, the reality is that we enjoy writing and we are glad to have followers that enjoy reading our posts. Ultimately, we are really glad that through our blog we've been able meet new friends and help families and communities in need.

So....we're psyched that we are currently in the lead in TheBump.com's "Best Daddy Blog" category. Besides bragging rights, winners will receive gift cards to Pottery Barn Kids (and, well, the holidays are coming....) and the grand-prize winner will win an iPad!

Voting ends on Monday, November 15th at midnight. The competition is stiff, so keep us in the lead and who knows where this road will take us! Thanks so much for all of your support!

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An Amazing Concert...for a great cause

The Rock Your Bottom concert was a resounding success. We had over 130 attendees at the concert and together, we raised 3,624 diapers for NJ families in need. It's been a week since the event and we are still amazed by the generosity and support that made the event such a success. Thank you to everyone who participated and donated diapers. We are still receiving diapers from our amazon wish list, which can be found here. If you were unable to attend the concert and you still want to contribute, please feel free to buy diapers from our wish list.

A special thank you to all our volunteers for their time and talent for making Rock Your Bottom an amazing event. We were so honored to have the support of all our volunteers for an entire afternoon.

In addition to all the diaper donations, we received generous donations for our tricky tray raffle from some very talented people: 

The lucky winners went home with some amazing prizes!

Of course, we also had an amazing performance by Preschool of Rock, who had all the little bottoms rocking! His songs are so infectious, my son was singing them days after the event! Preschool of Rock's new semester of classes begins in January, so be sure to check out his website and sign up early!

Also, a big thank you to Jason Platko for taking over 400 pictures of the concert. His pictures will be posted soon!

Finally, I am most thankful for my wife. She wears many hats on most days, but she worked tirelessly in organizing and planning the concert. I'm constantly amazed by her philanthropic spirit and selfless devotion to breaking down barriers for positive change. She should be proud of herself. I certainly am!

Thank you again to everyone who was involved in making Rock Your Bottom a huge success. A little help goes a long way and your donations will help many families. For that, you should be proud. Congratulations to everyone! 

Stay tuned...there's more to come!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rock Your Bottom Concert is This Saturday, November 6th

Rock Your Bottom concert is quickly approaching - this Saturday, November 6th - and we are looking forward to seeing you there!

The doors open at 3:30pm at:

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey
31 Evans Terminal, Hillside, NJ


Rock Your Bottom Concert is FREE, but as part of the Huggies Every Little Bottom campaign, we ask our friends to donate an unopened package of diapers to support New Jersey families in need. All diapers will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey as part of the Huggies® Every Little Bottom Campaign. Our goal for this event is to contribute over 2,500 diapers to the cause.

Rock Your Bottom is sure to provide a great time for friends of all ages. In addition to a fun-filled performance by Preschool of Rock, all attendees will receive FREE raffle tickets to win a variety of prizes from our generous tricky tray contributors!  Take a look at the list of prizes below, and start thinking about where you want to drop your tickets!

Of course, the more the merrier.  Feel free to invite friends/family/colleagues/neighbors to our event.  Encourage them to register here:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/rockyourbottom





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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Dad Behind the Blog: Making the Most of A Life Unexpected

"Life is a journey, not a destination."
"The journey is the reward."



Quotes like this usually adorn beautifully landscaped images of mountain tops with soaring eagles or a grey-blue sky with shimmering golden rays peaking behind white, fluffy clouds. The words and images are meant to conjure hope and inspiration.

They don't usually accompany pictures of families struggling to make ends meet, or trying to make sense of the difficult circumstances that have been dictating their life for the past 14 months. Yet, I do think this blog has tried to provide hope and inspiration - to bridge the connection between “us” and “them” and to help make sense of life’s challenges.

Someone asked me recently, “What’s the point of the blog? What is it going to do?” Honestly, when we started blogging, I don’t think we had any preconceived ideas about what it would “do”. I just knew my husband had a story to tell – a story probably very familiar to a lot of men and families in this tumultuous economy. I encouraged him to blog, as a way to express his own thoughts and frustrations, but over time, I found that contributing to the blog was cathartic for me, too.

But…it was my husband’s bravery and candor that have driven this blog. He has an innate ability to connect with his readers, as he shares his very personal journey through life and fatherhood.

For this reason, I ask that you vote for him, as an outstanding Daddy Blog. Please take a moment to click on the "Nominate Me!" icon below and enter this blog into the "Nominate your favorite blog here" section. Include a link to this blog and share why you have enjoyed following his story. As we celebrate six months of blogging, I’m taking this opportunity to celebrate the man behind the posts!







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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

99 and Counting...

We are at 99 registrants for the Rock Your Bottom concert, which is still 10 days away.  Click here to reserve your spot. Registration is quick and simple.

We will have a free tricky tray raffle with prizes from:
If you want to co-sponsor the event and promote your business, there is still time. Email me at alifeunexpected.jtm@gmail.com for more information.

Over 100 diapers have already been donated to the concert. It is sure to be a great time for a good cause.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!



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Friday, October 15, 2010

A Truly Great Love Story... Happy Anniversary!


Our journey began quite a while ago – you were the cute guy in the bar during grad school. I was the bartender supplementing a non-profit salary. You were three years younger than me. I said I’d go to a party with you, but you took me to a jazz bar instead. We shared stories of our families, our goals and dreams. We ran home in the rain, running from awning to awning holding hands. That night had all the makings of the first chapter in a truly great love story.

A few years later, we decided to “make it official” and to celebrate our relationship surrounded by the people we loved the most. Under the autumn trees, just as the sun was ducking down behind the mountain, on the most beautiful of days, the next chapter began with these words…
“I choose you to be none other than yourself.
Loving what I know of you.
Trusting what I do not yet know.
With respect for your integrity and faith for your love for me.
I choose you, in the certainty of my soul.
I will love you, honor you and cherish you all the days of my life.
With this ring I marry you and join my life with yours.”
Today, I celebrate the five years since we exchanged those vows. The days between then and now have been full of love and laughter. There have been sacrifices and tears, as well, but my goodness has my life been sweeter with you by my side. Five years ago, I read you the words below. Today, I don’t think I would change one word. I love you – here’s to the next chapter.
Dear Jason,
I’m marrying you today because I can’t imagine spending one day of the rest of my life without you by my side. With you, I truly feel that all things are possible and all storms can be weathered. You provide clarity when I cannot see clearly, comfort when I grieve and support when I struggle.
I have thought long about what has drawn me to you and I have come to the conclusion that my love for you rests on one of the most basic tenants of any successful relationship – respect. I respect and honor all things about you – your generosity, your wit, your compassion for animals, your dedication to school and career and your commitment to family. You are everything I could have ever hoped for, but never believed existed.
You are the most amazing man I have ever met. You possess such a strong sense of character and unparalleled understanding of commitment. You love me unconditionally, in spite of my flaws, and at times, I believe you may even love me more because of them. Your love has shown me a world painted brighter than any I had known before and I love you more intensely than I ever thought possible. I like to think of myself as a good person, but I realize that I am at my best when I am with you. For that reason, it is comforting to know that I will spend my life absorbed in the warmth of your love.
I know that as long as you are in my life, I will be loved and cared for and our days will be full of laughter, and honesty. We will create a family that will be beautiful and strong. In fifty years, I believe that you and I will be the couple our grandchildren idolize.
I am honored to be the person you have chosen to marry. I am so in love with everything about you. I look forward to sharing my life with yours.
I love you,
Bell
photo by Photography by Rebecca
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Tribute to Bell

I’m constantly amazed by my wife. She is so involved that it’s hard for me to recount all of her commitments. On any given day, she juggles multiple balls and wears many different hats. In addition to her full time job, she:


It isn’t enough that she is just involved. My wife is passionate about what she does. I often envy her because she truly loves her work. And she makes a difference. I still vividly remember a few years ago when one of “her women” (as she calls them) described her as a messenger of God. I can’t help but agree. Her motivations are pure. She has sculpted an intentional way of life that serves a purpose – a selfless devotion that betters our world.

I can barely keep her schedule straight and I constantly drive her crazy when I repeatedly ask her, “Where are you going again?” I have mnemonic nicknames for all her friends to help me associate where she knows them from. How else can I even keep them straight? On top of all that, her most important priority is her family – her 4-legged children, her son, and me.

October happens to be my wife’s busiest month. This month, in addition to her usual commitments, and the annual programs she coordinates in honor of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (which just also happens to be on our wedding anniversary), she is also helping to lead the charge for breast cancer awareness – a disease that has intimately affected her own family. Her nights and weekends fill up fast with events, webinars, and even work. However, this month also happens to host my wife’s birthday, which can fall victim to her selfless ways. This year in particular, our plans for her birthday family-building adventure were cancelled due to our son’s ill-timed cold. This month while she works diligently to promote awareness and solidify our future, it’s my priority to celebrate an extraordinary woman. October is many things to many people…but for my family, it is a celebration of my wife.

I know that she often struggles with her identities as a mother, wife, and professional. However, above all else, she prioritizes us and truly values her uninterrupted family time. Society may tell her that she can’t have it all. I disagree. Society doesn’t know my wife. Anyone who knows my wife understands that she doesn’t accept social norms. She is constantly evolving to make a better life for us. Thus, for her birthday, it is my main concern to let her know that she is a great mom, who is raising an incredible kid. And importantly…he knows it too.

Despite that the fact that our birthday plans were interrupted by the unpredictable nature of a 2-year old’s immune system, our celebration of “mom” is always constant.

Happy birthday, Bell. We love you! I hope you enjoy your video gift!


video

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Where Will You Be 33 Days From Now?

The flier for the Rock Your Bottom concert is here! Click here to download it or even print it out to send to your friends and family.

Click here to reserve your spot. Registration is quick and simple:

There will be some great free giveaways from our sponsors for the concert. Attendees will have a chance to win products and services from some of these New Jersey's very talented businesses: 
If you would like to be a co-sponsor for the event, please feel free to email me at:
alifeunexpected.jtm@gmail.com





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Friday, October 1, 2010

My Life with Boobs

by: Hungry Dog Heaven

I've spent more than a decade submerged in the politics and practices of Public Health. I’m comfortable talking about bodies, health disparities and statistics. But…I do this work because it's personal. So today, the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am blogging about my boobs – perhaps the most personal blog I could write.


***

In the familiar tradition of family folklore, there’s a story that’s been passed down that tells the tale of yours truly, at the young age of six, insisting that my maternal grandparents take me to get a bra because I needed one for school. The reality is that now, even at the age of (almost) thirty-four, I could probably survive just fine without a bra and in fact, my biggest reason for wearing one is to take advantage of the miracle Victoria puts in her outrageous little numbers. ;)

But, also when I was six, my paternal grandmother was confronted with the reality of her breasts. The reality that, despite having seen the doctor many times, her cancer had gone undetected until it had spread and required aggressive chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. While I was pining away for a pink, frilly, little training bra, my grandmother was coming to terms that her new bras would be lead-heavy prosthetic-filled contraptions that bore emotional and physical reminders of the loss of her own breasts.

For eight years, my grandmother battled against the disease that took her breasts. During that time, it also took her hair. And her strength. And her ability to travel like she loved to. And eventually, it took her life.

Another eight years passed before cancer invaded my world. This time, it was my mom. My best friend. The woman I called when I was scared, angry, heart broken and confused. The woman who answered the phone when I had good news to share and made my favorite dinners when I came home from college. I wish I could say that I remember all of the details, but I don’t. In fact, I remember very little. It’s a coping mechanism.

I took a semester off from school and drove down to South Jersey to accompany my mom to a couple chemo treatments. I remember that we watched General Hospital on the TV in the sterile treatment room. I brought us lunch from Wawa and picked up a few magazines. She lost her hair – her hair that had been so beautifully straight and thick was turned to patches of peach fuzz covered by chic, stylish wigs.

A few months into her treatments, I remember visiting her in the hospital, rather than a treatment room. Her immune system had been depleted by the aggressive chemicals she was receiving to fight the battle against the enemy inside. The very drugs intended to save her life were taking a tremendous toll. She lay, more defeated by the chemo than the cancer, in a stark isolation room unable to enjoy the warmth of my hand or the caress of my kiss on her cheek. I visited her in this room for many weeks and feared that every visit would be the last. She confided in me that, if she were to be diagnosed with cancer again, she would not choose to endure the pain of treatment again.

Thankfully, she eventually left the hospital and returned home and tried to piece together a familiar life under new realities. The reality of gray, curly hair where shiny, straight hair once grew. The reality of emotional/mental/spiritual wounds that would take a lifetime to heal. The reality of the physical scars that serve as daily reminders of her courageous journey.

I don’t clearly remember the first time I saw the scar from her mastectomy, but even now, thirteen years later, I can recall the image in my mind’s eye. An uneven line of scar tissue and concave flesh where a breast used to be. An uninvited battle wound from a victorious war. Unlike my grandmother, she seems to have beaten this thing. For now. That’s the thing about cancer - you can never really rest assured that the war is over. The fear of the enemy lurking in the dark shadows of cells and tissue is always there - the impact of her isolation-room-confession weighing heavily, even as we celebrate over a decade of "life after cancer".

I know many of us dream of a cure for breast cancer. I do, too. But, I also dream of finding the cause of breast cancer, because finding a cause means less physical and emotional scars, less fear and more smiles. Because, selfishly, finding a cause means that someone like ME might not have to fight the same war so many before me have fought. Finding a cause means there is the chance that cancer might elude me and never make me confront the fear of leaving my child and husband behind.

For this reason, I have joined the Army of Women (AOW) – a non-profit breast cancer research organization which provides an opportunity for men and women to take part in breast cancer research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer – and how to prevent it. The AOW is a groundbreaking initiative that connects breast cancer researchers, via the internet, with people who are willing to participate in a wide variety of research studies. The goal of the Army of Women is to recruit ONE MILLION MEN AND WOMEN of all ages and ethnicities, including breast cancer survivors and those who have never had breast cancer.

So, with Breast Cancer Awareness Month upon us, I ask that you help my dream become a reality. Sign-up for the Army of Women. There is no cost to join and the AOW is not asking for donations, just for volunteers who agree to receive information about a variety of breast-cancer research studies.

Be one in a million to find the cause of breast cancer and help us get closer to reducing the number of millions impacted by breast cancer.

To sign-up: https://www.armyofwomen.org/getinvolved

video




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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A "Rock Your Bottom" Update

We received our first package of diapers today for the "Rock Your Bottom" concert. The concert is a few short weeks away and we look forward to a great event! There will be some free giveaways, so make sure you register! Registrations are already flying in!

To reserve your spot: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/rockyourbottom
Registration is quick and simple.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You Heard it Here First: Press Release
It's Time to ROCK YOUR BOTTOM!

Rock Your Bottom Concert:
A Free Family Event for a Cause

New Jersey, September 17th, 2010 —  A Life Unexpected, in volunteer partnership with The National Latina Health Network and Preschool of Rock, is proud to announce a fun, FREE family concert to benefit the  Community Food Bank of New Jersey, in support of the Huggies® Every Little Bottom Campaign

In 2010, a study commissioned by Huggies and Kimberly Clark showed that mothers are making choices between diapers and other necessities when they can't afford both. This study showed that one out of every three mothers in America has, at one point, struggled with diaper need, which is the struggle to provide babies with a basic need - diapers. Moms struggling with diaper need run out of clean diapers monthly or more often. Babies may be kept in wet, dirty diapers for extended periods of time or, in more extreme cases, made to wear used diapers which have been cleaned or dried out. Forty-three percent of mothers struggling with diaper need say they need 14 or more extra diapers per week to feel they have enough. Yet there is little help for these mothers and babies as many community-based organizations don't provide diapers.

After learning about the impact and prevalence of diaper need, Jason Maikos, the primary author behind the popular Old Bridge, New Jersey-based blog, “A Life Unexpected”, offered to lend his time and talent to support the National Latina Health Network’s local diaper drive efforts. A Biomedical Engineer who was laid-off due to corporate down-sizing in August 2009, Maikos has been blogging about his experience as a well-educated husband/father navigating the waters of a tumultuous economy. In his blog, Maikos writes,

            “Despite all of our concessions, we’ve been relatively fortunate. We could always provide food and a comfortable, safe environment for our family. …Many families have sacrificed basic necessities, such as food, electricity, and even shelter. One of the most over-looked sacrifices is diapers. When families have to choose between food, rent, electricity, or diapers, they are forced to cutback on this basic child necessity.”

Thinking strategically about how he can help New Jersey families struggling with diaper need, Maikos contacted Michael Napolitano, the founder of the Preschool of Rock, who readily agreed to support the cause.  Preschool of Rock’s original music, infectious energy and understanding of children brings happiness to tons of families in New Jersey and New York. “We give our students a moment to embrace, celebrate and create music in a fun and free atmosphere. We encourage investigation, discovery and creativity with different instruments, dancing, singing, drumming, strumming and lots of laughing out loud,” said Napolitano.  With Preschool of Rock on the stage, the Rock Your Bottom Concert is sure to provide attendees with an opportunity to celebrate life and community.

To reserve your spot go to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/rockyourbottom
Registration is quick and simple. 

Attendees are encouraged to donate an unopened package of diapers of any size to support the cause. It doesn’t have to be much (and it doesn't have to be Huggies) because every diaper helps. Of course, large boxes will be greatly appreciated as well.

Rock Your Bottom Concert hopes to contribute over 2,500 diapers to New Jersey families. All contributions will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey which distributes over 23 million pounds of food and groceries a year, ultimately serving 1,656 non-profit programs including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations (PDOs). Through their combined efforts, they assist three-quarters of a million low-income people in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Rock Your Bottom Concert is being facilitated in part by the leadership of the National Latina Health Network.  As a national partner in the Huggies ® Every Little Bottom campaign, the network is partnering with individuals and organizations across the country to increase awareness about the prevalence and impact of diaper deprivation and to help facilitate the implementation of diaper drives across the country.

Event details:

Date:               November 6, 2010

Time:              3:30 – 5:00 pm

Location:        Community Food Bank of New Jersey
                        31 Evans Terminal
                        Hillside, NJ 07205

Cost:               Rock Your Bottom Concert is FREE.  However, attendees are encouraged to donate an unopened package of diapers of any size to support the cause. All diapers will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey as part of the Huggies® Every Little Bottom Campaign.


Contact:          alifeunexpected.jtm@gmail.com





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road to Responsibility, a Job and Dignity

During my channel surfing yesterday, I happened to catch a news clip covering the acceptance speech of a gubernatorial primary winner. His speech was largely about envisioning a New York that he can restore to past prominence. Naturally, he spoke to the woes of unemployment and helping those without jobs return to the workforce. In his speech, he said, “I see a New York where people who are down on their luck can get back on the road to responsibility, a job, and dignity.”

It saddens me to hear a potential leader of a powerful and progressive state suggest that the unemployed do not have a sense of responsibility or dignity because they don’t have a job. I understand his message was meant to inspire – to show he has some magical fix for a major problem. However, his judgments about dignity and responsibility paint a broad stroke that our self-respect is tied to our business cards.   

As I’ve written before, as an unemployed person, I have struggled with issues of self-worth and the fact that identities are linked to a job. However, during my time on unemployment, I have changed my perspective on life. My priorities have shifted.

  • I am not my job.
  • My sense of dignity is linked to my actions, not my employment.
  • I gain my sense of responsibility from raising my son to be a good person.
  • I strive to create a meaningful life for myself and my family.

During my unemployment I have tried to live an intentional life. I have tried to find the light during the darkest hours. I have attempted to provide optimism for those struggling and I have helped mobilize a community to aid those in need. We received such a tremendous response to our diaper drive that we are currently planning a second, much larger and impactful event. These are the things that help instill pride, a sense of community, and a responsibility to something greater. It’s what I do with my time that defines me.

When I return to work, my job will not consume my identity. My self-worth will be derived from so much more. My hope is to have a meaningful job that is in line with my core values of love and family. Jobs will come and go…but my dignity will not vanish and reappear with each passing position.

I’ve learned a lot about pride, responsibility, and my life’s purpose while unemployed. I’m a changed man with different priorities. I’m thinking of inviting the above-mentioned politician to my next philanthropic event. If he doesn’t win the election, he might find himself struggling with a crisis of identity and loss of dignity.




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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tantrums: A Different Perspective

I originally wrote the contents of this entry as a response to the post below. But…my husband asked me to make it an entry, and well...ironically, today was a day in which I really felt like partaking in my very own tantrum. Admittedly, when I had the house to myself for a few moments, I did just that. A good scream. A few tears. A war against my hardwood floors with the vacuum and mop. Afterwards, I felt better, but not as good as I felt after a nice glass of wine and a surprise dinner of sushi from my comforting husband!


***


Here's a little secret about this Mama: I often feel like waging my own tantrums - to clench my fists in a terrific fit of tears and screams. Sometimes, over small things like cold coffee or another pile of dishes in the sink. Sometimes over big things like financial uncertainty and social injustice.

When my son is deep in the throws of a tantrum, I am reminded of our similarities. He is scared, frustrated, and unsure of his ability to control himself and the world around him. He and I are feeling similar things; he just hasn't been conditioned to control his response.


I'm a little envious of his ability to blow off the steam - to just get it out until he falls in a heap of exhausted boy mush. But...I also feel for him. I understand that this is just the beginning. Today he is frustrated because his train tracks keep coming apart. When he gets older, he will endure a broken heart, a lost love, a dissolving dream.


When I am intentional and empathetic in my response to his tantrums, I find that we connect on a deeper level. My compassion drives my reaction. I am able to control my frustrations and act with more patience. I am able to see my boy as a small person who is finding his way through a world of confusing rules and mixed-messages.


When I can control myself in the midst of his tantrum, I can see beauty in his freedom to rage and sadness in the reality that this is just the beginning.





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Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

Raising a child is rewarding. It is also equally as difficult. Lessons of patience, understanding, and tolerance are a part of our daily experience – both for toddlers and parents. I answer the question, “Why?” as if it were on a constant repeat. I survive multiple tantrums each day (sometimes all day). I struggle with potty training. As I spend my days with my son, I can plan for quality time, but even the best laid blueprints are fallible. Tantrums can ruin a good lunch. Fighting over a dump truck can end a nice day at the pool. “Quality” is often lost amidst the chaos of toddler unpredictability.


As an unemployed person, it is easy to let each day blend into the next with no real structure. Time can slip by in a muted blur. One day. One month. One year. All unemployed. The one thing driving me each day is my desire to maximize my quality time with my son while I have it.


I’ve been told “practice makes perfect” a million times in my life. It was drilled into my head as a kid – playing sports, studying for tests. Now, as an adult, I’ve tried to apply a new twist to the old adage. If I “practice” things with my son (like sharing), it can lead to more quality time together. Hence, quantity can lead to quality.


Through my life I’ve learned, however, it is too simplistic to say that practice makes perfect. If I practice bad habits, I develop bad habits. If I practice them enough, I get really good at them. Thus, it is not enough to just be with my son. I need to be more then just…there.


The reality is that there are times when we just “go through the motions”, letting time just pass. We’ve all done it before – at work, at the gym, even with our kids. We squander opportunities. Today, I witnessed a mom at the local pool who sat and read a book, instead of interacting with her toddler who was swimming in the water…alone. Did it matter that she was even there? When I take a good look at my life, I am extremely fortunate to be a “stay at home dad” and spend a lot of time with my son. But, am I a good dad just because I am there?


For me, simply being present is not synonymous with “quality”. It is important for me to be intentional with my son. I want my actions to have true meaning for him. I want to be in the moment with my son. I know his mood is unpredictable. I know he will have tantrums that can interrupt quality time. I know he will fight with his friends over toys. However, if I treat every moment as a teaching moment, to let him learn about life, right from wrong, good from bad, then I believe that he can develop into a remarkable person. Because it’s not that practice makes perfect, but rather perfect practice makes perfect, it follows that productive quantity can lead to quality.


But…in the end, as I sift through my thoughts about the time I spend with my son, it no longer becomes about quality over quantity. If I choose to be truly intentional with our time together (no mater how long or short) and live in the moment with my son, all our time together becomes quality…even if he’s throwing a tantrum.





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