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:
Registration is quick and simple.

See you soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You Heard it Here First: Press Release

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:
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.


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.


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.


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.