why aren’t you talking about my children?

November is National Adoption Month, but then you probably didn’t know that because CNN and MSNBC and FOX and The New York Times and The Washington Post and Twitter and Facebook and the entire Internet have yet to notify you of that fact.

There are 415,000 children in foster care in the United States. That is almost a half million children, or roughly the population of Wyoming, without a permanent home.

Every night these kids go to bed not knowing where they belong or if they belong. And every year more than 20,000 of them age out of the foster system. These kids have no family. They have no home.

Each year, we, the so-called greatest country in the world, turn our backs on these 20,000 children. We abandon them.

Still not interested?  Still not willing to hashtag adoption?  Still not willing to launch an all-out Facebook assault on your friends and family who think adoption “isn’t their problem?”

Perhaps it’s because adoption is benign. It isn’t sexy or controversial enough to warrant your concern. It doesn’t sell papers or generate page views.

There are no flag overlays for adoption. It fails to inspire hashtags. It lacks conflict.

It isn’t a red cup at war with Christmas.

It isn’t Syria.

But then this post isn’t about Syria. For the purposes of this post Syria is a prop and before you judge me for that truth bomb I caution you to go back over your social media feeds because the only difference between you and me is that I’m being honest.

A week from now after Syria has runs its course in our collective consciousness and the news cycle has moved onto its next big story I’m simply asking you to remember that those 415,000 kids will still be there.

Those kids will still need a home.

No one is talking about them now. No one is probably going to talk about them tomorrow, but they will still be there.

Now I am not implying that these nearly half a million homegrown children are more important than children in other parts of the world or refugees from Syria or people in Paris or homeless veterans. I am saying that these kids are here and they’re not going anywhere and no one is talking about them.

And why is that?

If Anderson Cooper or Megyn Kelly or Rachel Maddow or a minion dressed as Caitlyn Jenner told you right now to drop everything and talk about adoption would it suddenly merit your undivided attention? Would you go into keyboard warrior-mode and obsessively begin to post every link you could find on adoption? Would you casually begin to throw around the adoption equivalent of twenty-five cent phrases like “white privilege” and fifty cent words like “xenophobe”?

If I could go back in time and snap a photo of my son as a baby sitting in the corner of what was probably a crack house with a blanket thrown over him while his birth parents shot up drugs or if I could travel to another time and take a photo of my other son’s birth mother in jail while five months pregnant with him would these images bring a tear to your eye?

Would these photos incite your passion? Would you spend your day littering Facebook with an endless stream of nonsensical memes if foster children were like those puppies in the Sarah McLachlan commercial?

Would they, at last, deserve your consideration?

Would they?

For the record, I’m not implying that I’m better than you because I did something; because I adopted two of those 415,000 kids. The truth is my interest in adoption was self-serving. I had no time for adoption until adoption could do something for me.

But now that I know about adoption, now that those statistics are a part of my life, now that those numbers have a face, I wonder, why are there not more people taking action?

Because you don’t need to adopt to make a difference. You don’t need to foster to make a difference. There are so many ways in which you can change the lives of these children who are living in unsafe conditions, who don’t have a home, whose future is Dickensian.

Consider, the woman who saw a young mother living in a tent with her baby and called children services. The caseworker who removed a child from the home of his drug addicted grandmother. Those people, who by the way made it possible for us to have our children, did nothing more than care about something that wasn’t on the news or trending on social media.

I have been told that these two issues (Syria and adoption) are like comparing apples to oranges, and while that may be true, I don’t necessarily believe that the apples are more important than the oranges or vice versa. I just believe the apples get all the attention on your newsfeed while the oranges don’t even merit a share.

And for the record, yes, I am aware of just how manipulative this post is, because who’s going to be the person who calls out the guy who adopted two kids, but if this calculated manipulation gets you to consider for even thirty seconds the plight of these 415,000 kids with as much passion as you’ve exercised over the past few weeks on Syrian refugees and red cups then it will have been worth it.

Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

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thirty day chip

Thirty days ago I posted my last status on Facebook.

I then drove my family three hours from our home in the city to a remote cabin in south central Pennsylvania for an off-the-grid weekend in the wilderness. For seventy-two hours I lived in complete ignorance of the world beyond our tiny house in the woods. There was no cell service, no internet, no social media, no functioning toilets. As someone who enjoys the conveniences of the modern world, to say nothing of proper indoor plumbing, this was roughing it.

But I survived.

Actually I did more than just survive, I thrived. For the first time in a very long time I was not distracted by phone calls or texts or the siren call of social media. With nothing left to steal my focus I was forced to live in the moment. I participated. I was engaged. I listened to my children play and rather than dismiss their exuberance as “just noise” I heard their words and I understood their language. I celebrated their creativity. I laughed and I smiled and I saw my kids again for the first time.

I’m not saying three days without Wi-Fi and suddenly I was Father of the Year, but in the days and weeks since that weekend I believe I’ve morphed into a solid second runner-up. The truth is even without the distractions of the modern world I struggle to be fully engaged every minute of every day. Sometimes I phone it in. I want to be Super Dad, but by the time the end of the day or the weekend rolls around I’m so exhausted and done with it all that I’ll settle for being the out-of-shape lazy-ass beer-drinking sidekick to Super Dad.

But then even being the fat drunk Robin is easier once you make the decision to unplug.

The world is a strange place without Facebook. I have no idea what people are doing or feeling. I don’t know what they ate for dinner last night or what movie they watched on Netflix last weekend or how they plan to vote in some distant primary. I don’t know what issue to hashtag or if black lives still matter or if that clerk from Kentucky is still a thing.

Even worse, since I can no longer use memes and shared links from Reddit as a barometer for one’s level of mental illness I’m forced to trust that every person I meet on the street is perfectly normal even though I know deep down they’re all fucking crazy.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I’m not complaining. Life is simpler without social media. I’m less concerned with things that have nothing to do with me. I spend more time enjoying all of the amazing things I have in my life and less time telling people about all the amazing things I have in my life. I’m not concerned with reliving the moment five minutes from now because I’m living the moment now. And while choosing to disconnect in a connected world can make you feel isolated I find that I enjoy living in a bubble.

It’s very quiet.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

we aren’t friends

Social media is a funny thing. We use it to share cat videos and photos of our families. We use it to show the world how clever we can be in 144 characters or less. We use it so everyone knows exactly what we are thinking on every subject all the time.

We use it without thinking.

But then again social media isn’t real. We don’t have a thousand friends. Or five thousand friends. Or, if we’re being honest, even a hundred friends. The majority of these imagined friendships exist in a distant world of interconnected routers and servers. They are code. They are not tangible. These friendships are cute and a great way to waste time, but 95% of our dealings on social media are conducted with people we barely know or people we knew a long, long time ago or people we never knew in the first place. And while it’s great that we’re all connected and we live in an age where we can share information, we are not required to be friends simply because the opportunity has presented itself.

I see people complaining that their news feed is clogged with friends who are racists, misogynists, homophobes, and I wonder: Outside of this distant world of interconnected routers and servers would you actually be friends with any of these people?  Honestly. In the real world where people look each other in the eyes and speak with words would you as a black man be friends with a person who thinks that black people deserve to be shot by the police? Would you as a woman have drinks with a man who thinks women should not work and if they do, they should make less money because they’re inferior? Would you as gay person invite into your home the neighbor who believes you should not have the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital?

Personally, I refuse to maintain some virtual friendship with a virtual stranger who thinks my life as a gay man is wrong. Because someone who thinks your life is wrong is not your friend. At least not in the real world that exists beyond the tap-tap-tap of your smartphone.

You cannot fundamentally disagree with who I am as a person and honestly think that I’ll be okay with that because really you’re a good person you just have different views. No. Voting for Jeb Bush instead of Hillary Clinton is a different view. Preferring Target to Walmart is a different view. The view from your backyard compared to the view from my backyard is a different view. Believing that you are superior to me and sitting in judgment of my life is NOT a different view.

Also, you’re not a good person. I know that’s harsh, but you should hear it. All of your “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit is just what you tell yourself so you don’t have to admit to being what you really are: a hateful bigot.

Look, I get it. Your beliefs are important to you. My husband and children are important to me. I understand that the words your god said over two thousand years ago – or at least your interpretation of those words and I’m speaking of those words you choose to acknowledge, not those words you ignore because they’re inconvenient for you – I get that those words matter to you. My rights and freedoms IN THE PRESENT DAY matter to me. And I hear you loud and clear when you say that, while you’re happy for me, you believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that only a man and a woman should have children. Of course if that’s true then why do you keep liking my photos on Facebook, you know, all the photos of me and my husband on our honeymoon and the other photos of me and my husband parenting our children?

I guess it’s because you’re such a good person.

if you don’t have anything nice to say, say it to my face

People are mean.  And I don’t mean some people.  I’m talking all people, the whole of humanity. Young/old, black/white, male/female.  Across the board we are a jealous, petty, and hateful species.  Of course for most of us being mean is nothing more than the act of thinking an awful thought.  We all do it. Mean is a notion we entertain, a thought we consider briefly.  Sure we may on occasion roll around naked in our meanness getting all dirty up in it, but in the end we simply feel it, process it and then let it go.

And for those people who can’t just let it go, who give action to thought?  In ye olde days — before the internet — these people had no friends and as a result rarely left their house or burdened society.  They might show their face at holiday meals to scream at some relative who “done wronged them” but for the most part their meanness rendered them impotent.  They were not someone to be feared, they were someone to be avoided.

But then came the internet.  Suddenly you could be as mean as you wanted with no consequence. It became de rigueur to threaten people, to call them stupid or fat, to virtually right all those perceived wrongs.  Nasty chat rooms, vitriolic youtube comments, Facebook fisticuffs, hate-texting, and twitter.  This new technology gave them —  the socially backward, the mentally unwell, the most jealous and hateful among us — a new power; it gave these virtual bullies a voice.  And the best part of this new voice was you didn’t even have to put on pants to use it.

Recently I was part of a Facebook conversation that devolved to a point where one woman called another woman ugly.  When I read the comment all I could think was, “She would never say that to her face.  Never.  She wouldn’t have the balls to even form the words.”  But from the safety of her smartphone thousands of miles away this woman found it acceptable to attack a stranger because, really, who was going to hold her accountable?  (Well I did.)

Last week NBC aired a live production of Peter Pan.  Many people hate-watched it, which is to say a bunch of people who could not do better passed judgment on a bunch of people who were doing better. In theater circles this critical watching is also known as being an unemployed actor. For me the  worst part of hate-watching are the painfully unfunny comments it generates on social media.  Not only are people nasty, but they can’t land a joke.

A former friend texted me out-of-the-blue six months ago. It was an epic, nonsensical, hate-filled, unprovoked rant that ended with her calling me “a coward”.  Yes, I’m the coward.  The person minding his own business at his house living his life is the coward.  Not the grown woman hiding behind her phone saying whatever malformed thoughts pop into her head, thoughts she would never say to my face, thoughts she can say because, really, who is going to hold her accountable?

Which I suppose is the point to all this.  If you want to be mean, then by all means be mean, but you have to be mean to my face.  If you can’t look me in the eyes and then call me a coward, you don’t get to say it.  If you don’t have the stones to walk up to Allison Williams on the street in public and then tell her she can’t sing, you don’t get to tweet it.  If you don’t have the spine to take the President aside and then tell him that he’s a Muslim terrorist, you don’t get to generate a Facebook meme about it.

The Internet makes us ugly. But still, calling someone ugly?  Thats just fucked up.  Get some help.

the week that was 4

The big news this week was Thanksgiving. I love holidays for many reasons — food, presents, more food — but mostly I love holidays because they give me a legitimate excuse to drink before 9 am, an opportunity I seized yesterday with both hands…firmly on a bottle of champagne as I indulged in a round of early morning mimosas. In our house if you do the cooking, you do the drinking.

So cook I do. Or did, rather. A twenty-five pound turkey, homemade stuffing, homemade mac-n-cheese, fresh cranberries, broccoli, a pumpkin pie and apple-cranberry cobbler.  And yes, Todd cooked too: homemade mashed potatoes and a to-die-for carrot soufflé.

Despite the mountain of food that we prepared (and for three people, no less), I’ve still never understood the fuss around cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It really is the easiest meal to prepare; mostly idiot proof, provided you can follow directions. Essentially you turn on the oven and then pop the turkey in for 3-5 hours depending on how big a bird you bought. If you have any self-respect you baste it every 30 minutes. (Note: Those of you lacking dignity may skip that step and jump to the part where you serve your guests a dry turkey carcass.)

As for the sides…seriously, how hard is it to prepare a few vegetables?  Wash, peel, cut, cook.  Voila.  I suspect the idea of Thanksgiving dinner being this laborious, back-breaking task was a myth created by our grandmothers and then perfected by our mothers; a scheme designed to allow them a few peaceful hours — free from husband and children — to sit in the kitchen getting hammered and melancholy on cheap wine and regret.

Well I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinners for nearly two decades now and the jig is up. You ain’t fooling anyone, Nana.


This week, like a dead fish left to bake out in the hot Florida sun, you could smell the stink steaming off Facebook.  People took to their iPhones and laptops to “express themselves” with a wailing and a gnashing of teeth I haven’t seen since, well, three months ago when everyone was wailing and gnashing their teeth over dead celebrities and mental illness.

Suddenly everyone was my eight-year-old son, tears streaming down his face after losing a round of Clue, screaming, “I have feelings.”

Full disclosure: I wrote a lot of other stuff here but Todd said it was too angry. And no matter how strongly I may feel — not about the events in Missouri, but the reaction of the public to those events —  I don’t want to offend good people, who I otherwise respect, simply because I disagree with their opinions.

So I’ll just say this:  if you have an overwhelming need to be a part of something, keep it simple and be a part of your life. By which I mean, clean your own house. Because all this noise disguised as discourse is just you distracting yourself from the business of living your life. It changes nothing.

This instafacegram tweeting cyberbullshit — this isn’t real. Your life is real.


And speaking of real, it’s time for me to unplug. I’m off to cut down a Christmas tree with my husband and son. It may not be some grand act of passive protest, but it is living.

i unfriend you

In this age of social media — where friendships live and die by the click of a button, where an acquaintance of an acquaintance of an acquaintance of the guy who cuts your hair knows what you had for dinner and how you voted in the last election, where high school never ends — what is a friend?

I have had more than a few epiphany moments since becoming a dad sixteen months ago. Chief among them is the realization that my friendships are no longer just about me. The company I choose to keep also affects my kid.  And some of my choices have been lacking.

I have unfriended people for many reasons — some legitimate, some whimsical, some ridiculous. I once hit the unfriend button because a person (over)used the phrase YOLO, as in You Only Live Once. I’ve unfriended people for political opinions that were deeply personal and personal opinions that were offensively political. I’ve unfriended family members.

I know what kind of person I am and I knew that I would be littering Facebook with personal stories of parenthood and photos of Chris.  I knew I would be that parent.  So in the weeks leading up to meeting Chris, I deleted 150 people from my Facebook friend list (more than half my list).  These were people I knew casually — the girl who acted in a play I directed three years ago but had not seen since; that homophobic guy from high school who I wouldn’t remember if he came up to me and said, “Hey I’m that homophobic guy from high school you don’t remember”; the seldom-seen cousin who stated there should be zero gun control less than 24 hours after the Sandy Hook school shooting.  These people were a no-brainer — they either weren’t really friends or they were people I wanted nowhere near my child.

But in the real world — that ever-shrinking dimension where face-to-face interpersonal communication still exists — ending a friendship is not as simple as clicking a button. It’s one thing to erase a person in cyberspace, it’s another thing to wipe out their existence on this earthly plane.

But sometimes that’s just what you have to do.

So I took an inventory.  Peter Pan.  The “every-other-word-is-fuck” guy.  The slutty one.  The emotional vampire.  The passive aggressive narcissist.  The lunatic.  What was I thinking?    

At one time it was cute. Their unwillingness to grow up. Their foul mouth. Their neediness.  Their dangerous mental instability.  Their overt sexuality so in your face at times you felt like their gynecologist. But what was once colorful now seemed — I was going to say sad, but that isn’t fair — it now seemed, so not where we are in our lives.

I’ve been told that I burn bridges.  That I’m quick to judge. Incapable of forgiveness. Someone once called me an asshole (to my face!)  And while it’s true that I am an asshole, I also think I’m honest. Some friendships go the distance. Some do not.