home

We bought our first home in 2008 with an $8 down payment. I was 33 years old and my husband was 37, and after mismanaging our credit through much of our early adulthood and after years spent renting less-than-desirable houses in equally less-than-desirable neighborhoods, we never thought we’d actually own a home. But then suddenly there we were – homeowners and all it had cost us was $8.

We had been living in New York City for a few years prior to buying our first home, and it was during the summer before we moved back to Pittsburgh that we found our down payment. My husband had been selling antiques for years and he would spend his free time and weekends searching local yard sales for things to resell at the flea market. He was very good at this sort of thing. Usually he stuck to antique furniture and knick knacks, but one Saturday he came home with a painting.

The painting was nothing special – an exterior house scene painted on canvas stretched over a simple frame. But my husband thought it might be worth something and so he paid the $8 asking price for it and brought it back to our apartment. He showed it to me, convinced that it was something. I rolled my eyes and went back to watching TV.

It turns out it was something. That $8 painting (by an artist named Paul Strisik) was worth almost $4000. After picking our jaws up off the floor, we quickly listed it on eBay and within a few days we had the down payment for our first home.

I never much cared for that painting, but now I think of it with the kind of reverence reserved for a Picasso or a van Gogh.

That $8 painting did not just help us to buy our first home; that $8 painting set up the next eleven years of lives. It led us back to Pittsburgh. It guided us to the jobs we both still hold today. It put us on the path that would eventually lead us to our four children.

I sometimes wonder, “Who would we be without that painting?”

Today we sign away our first home to its new owners. Before this house, I had never lived in any single home for more than five years. My family moved a lot when I was younger, by the time I was 14 we had lived in six different homes, and as an adult we moved every 2-3 years.

The house on Defoe Street was my first real home. We were married (twice) while living in this house. We brought puppies home to this house. We said goodbye to our beloved dogs Max and Fred in this house. We made a family in this house.

I can still see Chris sleeping in his new room on that first night – the child we never thought we’d have, now home. I remember the first time Elijah called me “Dad” after six months of referring to me as either “Hey you” or “Sean”. I close my eyes and I can still hear Chris, Elijah and A’Sean, on that first night A’Sean stayed with us, talking late into the night as if they had been brothers their whole life. I see Ke’Juan every night before bed lingering on the stairs, hovering over me on the couch, because she hates to go to sleep.

Every room is a memory.

We took that house from mauve carpets and outdated kitchen to hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances. We added a fourth bedroom and a game room and a second bathroom.

We celebrated Christmases and Thanksgivings and birthdays and adoption days. We yelled and we fought and we cried and we loved in that house.

We lived.

We became a family.

And it all started with an $8 painting.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is a 44 year old married gay man. He lives in Pittsburgh with his husband, three sons, and daughter. Sean enjoys Law & Order reruns, Christmas movies in October, and Facebook stalking. He likes donuts and beer. Sometimes he goes to the gym (not really).  He is the author of the best-selling book Which One of You is the Mother?

have you lost weight?

A few days ago I wrote a lengthy blog post about my son’s cell phone, specifically the many disturbing things I found on my son’s cell phone. I continued to detail the endlessly developing story on social media, humorously recounting my confrontations with teenage drug dealers, young women with very low self-esteem, and my son’s misogynistic (and very stupid) friends. Over the next several days I received a flurry of texts and messages congratulating me on my bravado…other parents commended me for my no-holds barred parenting style, calling me “brave” and “strong” and while I really did appreciate their kind words I was a bit pissed off that not one person called me “thin”.

No one said, “I loved the way you confronted that pot dealer. Have you lost weight?”

Whatever. I see you. I see what really matters to you and I want you to know I am offended and also, no, I have not lost weight. In fact, I have gained like 400 pounds since I became a parent, thank you for noticing. My youngest son’s favorite pastime is to put his hand on the top of my belly as if it were a shelf and then laugh. Well the joke’s on him because I just grounded his ass for calling a classmate a “chicken nugget”.

A few weeks ago my oldest son made a crack about my weight and again, joke’s on him because I took down his pot dealer and confiscated his cell phone. My other son seems to have caught on because he’s been suspiciously quiet and the other day my daughter told me I looked “handsome”…granted this was after she got caught trying to access a blocked website on a school computer, but whatever, I’m just glad that at least one of my kids has learned that when it comes to Dad, flattery will get you everywhere.

It’s been a stressful few weeks. Aside from the cell phone business, we’ve been trying to sell our house, which means all I do is obsessively scrub the toilet and not sleep at night. My house may be clean, but I am a mess. The icing on the “my-son-might-be-a-pot-smoking-misogynist” cake is that I ran out of blood pressure medication. If I make it through the next few days without having a stroke I plan on celebrating with a donut and beer sundae.

All joking aside it really has been a very difficult couple of weeks, but it’s also been a very much-needed couple of weeks. My son’s phone, my kids getting into trouble at school, the stress of selling a house while raising four kids – these events have given me perspective. Or rather, other parents have given me perspective because what I’m starting to realize is that I am not alone in this.

It turns out other people’s children are also smoking pot and receiving inappropriate text messages from young women with very low self-esteem and calling other kids names and looking at blocked websites on school computers and basically just fucking up like every kid in the world does at least five times a day.

The truth is most of us really are doing the best we can, and if we are failing, at least we’re failing at trying. It’s a comforting thought. It means we’re not alone. So relax. Crack open a cold one and pour it on top of your donut sundae. We’ve earned it.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is a 44 year old married gay man. He lives in Pittsburgh with his husband, three sons, and daughter. Sean enjoys Law & Order reruns, Christmas movies in October, and Facebook stalking. He likes donuts and beer. Sometimes he goes to the gym (not really).  He is the author of the best-selling book Which One of You is the Mother?

the question that inspired the post that started the blog that inspired the book

This was my first post on this blog. It appeared in October 2014.


Sixteen months ago we adopted our son Chris.  We are trendsetters (not really) so this was way before gay adoption become fashionable.  Kind of like how we got gay-married two and a half years years before it became legal.  Or how we started watching Orange Is the New Black before everyone on Facebook was taking those quizzes to determine if they were an Alex or a Piper.

At that point in our relationship Todd and I had been together for almost 17 years so it was either get another dog, adopt a kid or grow old in a suffocating air of quiet resentment.  As appealing as quiet resentment is to both of us, I think we chose best because Chris is the absolute best thing ever in the whole wide world and I (we) cannot remember what our lives were like before he agreed to let us be his dads.  I know we had a life before Chris, but in retrospect, I think we were just killing time until we could adopt him …because as I said he is the best thing ever in the whole wide world (even when he isn’t and, boy, does that little shit have his moments).

So sixteen months ago we adopted our son Chris and became (hot) gay Dads.  The best part of this (aside from Chris) was that no one noticed.  I mean people were happy for us and incredibly supportive, but in the context of us being two guys adopting a kid, it was not a big deal.  The day after the adoption the headline in the local paper did not read: “Local Gays Adopt 7 Year Old!  Younger of the Two Dads Even Hotter Now!”  It was a non-event and I liked that because it meant we were living in a time and place where something as superficial as our gender was irrelevant.

And for the most part that has remained true.  But every now and again I am met with this question: “Which one of you is the mother?”  The first time someone asked me that question, I laughed, thinking it was a joke.  But when they repeated the question, and I realized they were serious, I was just confused.  I mean, seriously, how in the hell do you answer that question?

“Which one of you is the mother?”  Well if we’re relying strictly on gender stereotypes, then I suppose, as the more emotional of the two, that I fit the maternal role.  But then in terms of household duties it’s a 50/50 split: I clean, but Todd does the laundry and we both do the cooking.  Todd is better at dressing cuts and bruises; while I just look better in a dress.  And although Todd gives better hugs, I am Oscar-worthy in my role as a manipulative, overbearing drunk.

Ultimately, the problem with the question is that it is not the question.  They ask, “Which one of you is the mother,” but what they really mean to say is, “Which one of you is the WOMAN?”  It’s that age-old heterosexual preoccupation people have with two guys and sex: what goes where.  I hate that question and I hate that anyone even considers it when they see me with my family.  But oh well, there you have it.  I should probably just be happy they gave me a kid.


Which One of You is the Mother? is available for pre-order on Amazon: Buy Which One of You is the Mother? here. No seriously, buy it now. It’s only $4.99 for the Kindle version and $9.99 for the paperback edition. A venti Starbucks Frappuccino costs more and unlike that Frappuccino this book won’t make you fat(ter).