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The Year 2011: A Look Across

I was unemployed (except for the blog) for all of 2010 and underemployed for most of 2011 (and so was the wife). In June of this year I DETERMINED with God's help that my family would not ever suffer because of this economy and I prayed on it. Now this Christmas I am looking a the biggest tree I've ever owned and more gifts than I've ever seen as a child or adult. We both have career oriented gigs now and I am thankful that God saw us through the storm. A way was made out of no way. The impossible became possible. My heart is glad. I am at peace. And I am filled with praise and thanks. Merry Christmas!

~ Me, via Facebook - Christmas Morning 2011

This year has been a doozy...

Many people passed away as they do every year. Quite a few unexpectedly, as they do every year. A family member passed just as recently as three days ago. Quite a few were young. This surprised me or maybe I'm just getting older and death's touch isn't just grabbing the "old folks" anymore.

This blog had a number of ups. Three years into it's existence it was named a Top 50 Dad blog not once, but twice by two reputable online sources. And then the PR people came running asking me to rep everything from chainsaws to male enhancement supplements. Obviously I didn't represent either of the two I just mentioned.

Social media finally clicked for me and my life changed forever. It's not about having thousands of "friends" so you can yak away on a keyboard about absolutely nothing, but rather turning a social media connections into real world contacts or dollars. Either way social media will only be an overwhelming distraction unless you decide to convert some portion of it into reality --- the one you can touch, hear, see and smell.

The point above allowed me to be a reporter at Steve Harvey's Dreamer's Academy in Disney World, it opened the doors for me to become an eBay Brand Ambassador and a Family Night Parent Ambassador. I was invited to blog for the Huffington Post and a huge magazine (though I dropped the ball on the magazine and never followed up with them - next year if they'll take me). I also opted to review laundry detergent and less than stellar made for TV movies. There were times when this blog resembled other blogs rather than what you and I are accustomed to. This will change. I'm going back to the basics. Chef Michelle will remain with her tasty recipes, and I'm going to introduce you to a new dad so you and I can read and be reminded of what that experience is. But beyond them, I'm going back to the basics of what made this place what it was.

While I thought I was functioning in a vacuum blogging, being a dad and generating a lifetime's worth of content people with jobs were watching me and in a few days I might have some very good news to share with all of you.

Atlanta - I still haven't gotten fully on board, but I'm not holding a torch for any place I've I spat in the face of traditional publishing and published two books of my own, followed all the correct steps, but the truth is selling a book is tough, digital or paper, even tougher when your a man speaking out being a better man because all men think they're perfect unless they realize they are not and then they keep it to themselves. I opted not to and because I'm not a Kardashian, or Steve Harvey or Hill Harper or anyone with a national media following so sales have been slow. But these things take time and if I'm perfect at anything which I'm not, I'm pretty close to it when it comes to being patient.

Marriage...well...my patience has been stretched, as has my compassion and my understanding and my strength. I've learned my limits as a man and a human and I now the love (actively putting the needs of another before my own) that the Bible speaks of and am not ashamed to say I practice it whether I am rewarded for it, or not. Nothing great was ever achieved without struggle, nothing beautiful was ever achieved without some ugly moments and should you click and never clack along the way God bless you. But for the rest of us, put love first and leave the rest of it in the trash. Marriage has made me a better man in ways I'm sure no other experience could.

Fatherhood has been a blessing, even with the days when it exhausts me. Despite the days when I feel lost and can't find any of me anywhere. My daughter is a jewel that I'm blessed to be the steward of. She can't get enough of school, she's acting, dancing and close to winning a statewide art competition. I feel that she is the amalgamation of many that came before her, all wrapped up in ponytails and pink. My son is shaping out to be quite the young man. I'm proud of him, but he's a teen and teens like to rebel. It pains me that he rebels against us, as mildly as he does, because I'm not the father to him that my father was to me. He wants out of my house as bad as I wanted out of mine, but life is served to him on a platter whereas I felt like I was in a fight with my father every day of my life until I left home. And old crotchety dad has been right on the money dad as of late - most of my warnings which have gone unheeded, dismissed and discounted have all come to pass - at his expense. But he'll learn. Just as I did.

I can go on like this forever. So I won't. Aside from all of the above I'm working on my To Do List for 2012...all the things I want and need to accomplish. Some are carryovers from 2011 and I suggest that you do the same. Take today not to regret what didn't go right this year or what could'a should'a would'a happened. The economy is not your fault. Our politicians are your fault only if you voted or didn't vote against the ones you don't like. Embrace the missteps, analyze your mistakes and turn the messes into messages. Live today as if it were your last, because it technically is as far as 2011 goes. There are plenty or great personal organizational tools such as Evernote that you can use to get your life in order quick fast. Aside from that whatever you want to do, overcome, accomplish the tools for getting it done are no further than a Google search, a workshop or a trip to the library. If you ever have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me here or via Twitter.

Thanks for riding on this train with me. I'll see you in 2012!

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The eBay Challenges - A Year In Review

So far so good with my eBay experience as a member of the Parent Panel. I've made some decent cash to pay some bills here and there but it hasn't been a 100% skip along through la-la land. And I'd be remiss if I didn't share some of the downsides with those of you who are dipping your toes in the water or at least considering it.

1. Returns - Having someone request a refund for an item is one of the most deflating experiences you can have as an eBay seller. You worked so hard to get that listing to look just right, you spend considerable mental energy describing your listing and now the person who was so excited to receive your item and probably gave you positive feedback wants their money back. As long as they are within the return guidelines that you set there is really nothing that you can do other than to be as much a cheerful returner as you were a seller. Maintain the same level of professionalism and it is highly unlikely that your feedback will be in danger. Just make sure to cancel the transaction so eBay doesn't charge you for a what is now a non-existent sale.

2. Feedback - My formula for maintaining a high feedback score is to communicate. As in any relationship communication is the name of the game and if you want your buyer to get the warm and fuzzies about you as a seller then communicate, communicate, communicate. Let your buyers know when their items ship, provide them with tracking/shipping info if you have it (make sure to insure the package so that if there are any mishaps during shipping you and your package are guarded against a long drawn out buyer-seller dispute process).

3. Shipping - This uncharted land is an are that I have yet to master. Buy a scale, make sure you know the rates for whichever shipping service you are using. But the trick of it all is to figuring out how to price an item to include shipping, especially when up against larger more established sellers who have mastered the shipping equation. My advice would be to do what feels morally correct as far as pricing (and financially sound). People visit eBay for the deals that beat most other online retailers. You're wasting your time listing items for a gabillion dollars because you don't want to take a hit on the shipping. The question you have to ask yourself is do I want to sell something I may have either paid nothing for or no longer remember buying or do you want to get every single penny that the item is valued at. The same thing goes on in the housing market and we all know how that's working out.

Ultimately, hard work, staying the course and not being discouraged by the occasional challenge, some of which I listed above, will keep you on a straight path on whatever selling goals you have on eBay. Take all the things you've accumulated in 2011 --- items you know you aren't not going to find a use for in 2012. It can be done and there are plenty of success stories. Such as the one featured below. Decide what's you think you can sell and give eBay a try!

Happy New Year!

Note: This is a sponsored post. However the opinions expressed here are wholly my own.

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The Top 10 Posts of 2011

The beautiful thing about having a blog that is almost four years old and has 800+ posts is that the content stays alive no matter what year it was written. Many of the following Top 10 posts for 2011 weren't actually written in 2011 but they have maintained their staying power and deserve their positions right alongside my freshest and most up to date content. Here they are in order for your reading pleasure:

  1. I Hate Cats (written in 2008)

  2. 7 Things You Should NOT Say To Your Wife(written in 2009)

  3. Investing In An Emotional Letdown (written in 2010)

  4. Really Home Alone

  5. Daddy Daughter Date - Chicago Style
  6. 10 Ways To Spice Up Your Marriage
  7. Dream Big, Dream Early
  8. Best Writing On The Bathroom Wall Ever!
  9. But Why Do I Have To Die?
  10. The Curse of A Loving Father
Do you have a favorite post here on Makes Me Wanna Holler.com? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Everyone needs an occasional day off, or two --- bloggers too.

I'm going to take a couple days to recharge, rethink and renew, both myself and MakesMeWannaHoller.com. In the meantime, please feel free to visit the Archives here and sift through the 800+ articles I've written since February 2008. I'll still be on Twitter and talking shop on Facebook, so it's kind of like a vacation with limited access to email.

Be well and merry in these last days of 2011.

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Mondays with Michelle: Happy Holidays!

...from my family to yours!

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'Tis The Season - My Gift To You

Click the box to open it...


What You DON'T Deserve

When it cones to surprises My father is just as much a Chatty Cathy as my daughter. The difference is my daughter is almost six. My father is pushing eighty.

For Christmas this year he went above and beyond just adding to the check my mother puts in the customary cards she puts in the mail to me. He potentially got me something BIG, not in size but value. And it's value to me could prove to be priceless.

I yelled for him to stop talking and begged him not to send it --- whatever it is. In my head I heard myself saying I don't deserve anything except for that which I earn on my own. My parents have been there for us during the rough patches of our transition out of NYC to ATL so how could I accept anything from them? I simply don't deserve it.

Or do I?


Mondays with Michelle: Holiday Cookies!

Welcome to Mondays with Michelle! With Christmas right around the corner, I thought today would be the perfect day to share my favorite holiday cookie recipe.

I grew up making these cookies every year with my Mom and Grandma and I still make them today. It is a traditional German Christmas cookie called, Butterpl├Ątzchen or Butter cookies. The dough is very simple to make and the actual creating and decorating of the cookies is very kid friendly, so get your kids involved too... I'm sure they will love to be your helpers!

(photo from www.gofeminin.de)


A DAD Amongst Dads

Last night I attended an awards ceremony where high school seniors were receiving full scholarships (based on merit) to a select few colleges and universities. When given the chance to speak many thanked both their parents, most thanked their mothers and one lone young lady went out of her way to tearfully thank her father for being an involved, loving and amazing dad. This is the kind of father all of us in the dad lane should all aspire to be.

I was fighting back the tears, coughing and rubbing my eyes as if they itched knowing good and well I was about to gush right along with all the other parents, teachers, counselors and adults in the audience. The entire event was a tear-fest which I arrived to a bit late because Google Maps sent me to a rehab/recovery shelter instead of the auditorium where the event was taking place. I envisioned what it might be like to be a proud father of either my son or daughter receiving a scholarship to college or any award for that matter and I got choked up all over again.

Follow this link to learn more about the Posse Foundation and the amazing work it does. They are located in multiple locations throughout the US. Who knows, you might be the next proud parent of a child going to college on a Posse Scholarship.

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Battles, Skirmishes and War Bonds

After being yelled at in the morning for the umpteenth time for reasons that clearly must have been valid enough for it to be done in front of my sixteen year old son and my five year old daughter my daughter asked
the following question:

"Daddy, why are you and mommy not nice to each other."


D.I.Y. Holidays: Ornament Tree

Besides all the warmth and good cheer of the holidays I also love it because it requires me to stretch my DIY (Do It Yourself) muscles. Whether that's tying the tree to the top of the car, sawing down the trunk, trimming it to get that perfect triangle look, spray painting pine cones or making an ornament tree.

The light fixture above my table which by all descriptions is a chandelier doesn't have the clearance from the table that the one in the featured video does nor does it allow for small S-hooks (keep in mind the larger the hook the higher the gauge - you don't want to look like you're hanging car parts from your ceiling). So I did what I always do. I improvised and made it work for my specific set of circumstances by taking the S-hooks out of the equation.What resulted was a wide/squat ornament "tree" that I gave a "trunk" with the centerpiece that was already on the table. This is something you can get all your "Little Helpers" involved in to make it a family affair. See the photo below for my effort.

My very own Ornament Tree. You turn!

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Monday's with Michelle: Gumbo!

Welcome to Monday's with Michelle!

This time of year everyone is always so busy. Seems like evenings are spent Christmas shopping, or party planning and weekends are spent doing the same, in addition to making dishes for holiday potlucks and gatherings. That being said, regular dinner planning tends to turn into, "what drive-thru are we going to." This is where one of my favorite dishes comes in, Gumbo! It's perfect for this chilly weather and you can make a big batch and have leftovers for days! Cheers to leftovers! Check out my gumbo recipe below....
Michelle's Gumbo topped with brown rice and green onions!


Put On Your PJs FIRST!

Earlier this week I had an amazing day that included my daughter's first school program. I eventually came home dead tired after leaving straight from the evening program to attend my son's night basketball game at his high school. I was excited about the prospect of putting on the pjs and going to bed at a decent time. But I sat on the couch to talk with my son while he ate a late dinner after his basketball game. I began to daydream of going to bed like a normal human until it became a dream that I woke up from at 1:30am --- fully dressed, with all the lights on and the TV blaring at me...

He could've at least turned the TV off...

Next time I'll put my pjs on first.

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The Circle of Life

I never knew what it would feel like to be 40 and to have as many years behind me as I potentially do in front of me. I couldn't anticipate what being a father to a boy about to become a man would look like. And I never considered the joy I'd feel watching my daughter perform on stage for the very first time in her very first school performance, as she did yesterday.

Yet here I am in the midst of it all, living it, breathing it, in awe of it, blessed by it and struggling to fight back the tears because of it.

I wonder if my parents felt the same way when I walked the same steps my children are walking.

This is the Circle of Life.

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My Thoughts On Herman Cain

Please click the image below for my thoughts on the recently deposed Herman Cain:


Mondays With Michelle: Dinner Favorites

Welcome back to Monday's with Michelle!  This past week has been super crazy busy for me. With work, recovering from the holiday and other projects, I thought this would be the perfect time to share another one of my favorite go to dinner meals: Feta stuffed Turkey burger and garlic-y Green Beans, check out the details below:


Thanksgiving, A Rental Car and Omni Hotel Chicago

I launched a clandestine offensive against my wife months ago. I learned my lesson from the year before ---

The year before I asked my wife if we could go to Chicago (my home) for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our talks broke down. Since leaving the NYC and even when we were there the MO for us was to stay there because "We do Thanksgiving in New York". Last year she did the classic I'm not really going to answer you one way or another until it's too late to do anything but what I want to do move - in other words she stonewalled me. I made the decision back in 2010 that would never happen to me again...

Omni Hotel Chicago
Once I realized it was no longer summer I began my offensive.