Traveling Again, Dad?

The author and illustrator are donating all profits
from the book to children's charities.
Associated Press

By Rachel Beck
The Associated Press
White Plains, NY

Micheal Lorelli recalls how he used to take time away from business trips to actually visit the cities where he was staying.

Eighty countries later the corporate executive is more interested in getting home to his wife and two daughters than seeing another tourist spot.

“Its hard to be working and traveling and to leave the family behind,” said Lorelli, a division president of tampon maker Tambrands Inc. in White Plains, N.Y. “Now, I Try to be productive and efficent when I’m away. I want to get home.”

Lorelli, with 20-plus years in the corporate world, andhis family have much experience at dealing with the stress and sadness caused by a parent’s business trips. So he’s written a children’s book, “Traveling Again, Dad?”, a somewhat autobiographical account of a traveling parent and the family left behind. Told through the eyes of the pet hamster, Awsome, the story tracks Dad’s departure, from the final family diner before the trip to his much-anticipated return.

“We’re all a little sad, ’cause Dad needs to go away for a whole week,” Awsome says in the story.

“Dad explained that being away from the family now and then was part of his job. Lots of moms and dads have to travel for work.”

Illustrations done by Drew Struzan, the creator of E.T. for the Stephen Spielberg film, show Dad daydreaming about home while sitting through his meetings. His kids, meanwhile, anxiously wait for his return.

And Struzan also included many details from real life, including “I Miss You” faxes and mapsplotting his stops that Lorelli’s daughters, Karen, 15, and Elizabeth, 13, made while he was traveling.

“Sometimes we’d play tic-tac-toe over the fax,” Lorelli added. “And one time it took seven cities to finnish the game.”

Published by Awesome Books and on sale for $17.95, Lorelli sees the book as a useful tool to teach kids that traveling is hard on the entire family, including the member who’s away from home. All the proceeds will go to a charity, which hasn’t been selected yet.

“You’re away for as many as three weeks at a time,” Lorelli said. “Then you come back and you’re a zombie becuase you’re so exhausted. Thats when traveling effects everybody.”

Growing up in Bayside N.Y, Lorelli learned from his father that two priorities in life are hardwork and family time.

Lorelli emotinally recalls how his father, an insurance broker, rose before dawn to get the day started and sometimes worked through the evening, determined to build his business.

Yet the elder Lorelli also set aside time for his family, ocasionally sneaking out of work at midday to pick up his son from school.

“My dad did something that I don’t do,” said Lorelli, whose father died 10 years ago. “He found a perfect balance between life and the kids, and I really struggle to give them equal time.”

Time has been scarce for Lorelli since 1973, when he started working at big corporations after graduating from New York University’s business school.

He landed his firt job at the hair care products company Clairol, where he advanced to product manager within two years. His biggest achievement at Clairol came when he led a group that persuaded the Food and Drug Administraton not to ban certain key ingredients in Clairol’s hair dye products, which made up a majority of the company’s profits.

His success on that project was the launch pad of his career, and he eventually moved on to Playtex International and Apple Computer Inc. before heading to Pepsico Inc., where he spent nine years in the executive suite of the No. 2 soft-drink maker.

“Pepsi is an interesting place,” he reflected. “It’s huge, It has a lot of resources and you can’t be there for nine years without picking up some really sharp strategic skills and all the other business skills from a real blue-chip Fortune 500 company.”

His first job at Pepsi was in the soda division, where he helped foment the soft drink revolution that swept the nation during the 1980s. Agressive marketing promotions, including celebrity advertisements with starts like Micheal Jackson, helped boost cola sales.

Lorelli later moved to Pepsi’s Pizza Hut International unit, where he was responsible for its worldwide business. Again, smart, snazzy marketing and promotions helped broaden the pizza chain’s global presence.

But his years at Pepsi also sent Lorelli circling the world. In 1993, he logged 300,000 air miles, some times spending more time flying than on the ground.

“Somtimes I’d leave on a sunday night and was in the London by morning,” he said. “Then I’d just keep moving east and east and east until I ended up in Austrailia.”

So much of his time was spenton the Pizza Hut plane that Struzan used the aircraft as the cover illustration of the book.

By the end of 1994, Lorelli had weathered enough all-night flights and missed weekends at home and was ready for new challenges. He joined Tambrands with the goal of increasing the brand recognition of its sole Tampax label.

Tambrands had sales of $750 million last year, making it the largest manufacturer of tampons in the world. But some of its market share has slipped in recent years, with compeition intensifying within the feminine hygiene market.

The move also allowed his life to slow down a bit. While he’s still taking business trips, Lorelli has found more time to spend with his family.

He arrives at the office about 5 a.m., where he runs four miles before getting down to business, but tries “to get out of here at a decent hour so that I can have dinner with my kids. I want to be availbile to help with homework – even if they don’t want my help.”

His days are full, commuting to Manhattan for a meeting or two, heading to Sarah Lawrence College where he’s a trustee and juggling other responsibilites.

Still, just like the dad in his book, coming home is the best part of his day.

“It’s hard to be away from you guys,” says the dad in the story. “But it’s always great to get home to all of you.”

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