Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Nostalgia of Pizza and Turtles

When I was a kid and I wanted to escape, I rode my bike. My bike was as retro as they come and I felt like it could transport me anywhere. The body was black satin, the seat a "bread loaf" banana seat, and around the tires, molded blue plastic fenders that made it look like a motorcycle. On the front was a racing placard that read Thunder Road 42, and when I was on it, I felt like I could go anywhere or be anything I wanted to be. Many afternoons, I would ride my bike to the White Hen, our local convenience store where the owner Mr. Polich would ask me how my family was and would tell me not to loiter outside the storefront. Once, he hired me to stuff Sunday papers in the back room and gave me odd jobs when he couldn't come out from behind the counter. He always paid me in silver dollars, which I felt looked more like treasure than any bill he could give me.

Sometimes, I'd use his payment to buy a pack of Pixie sticks or those wax Cola bottles and sit in the back corner near the magazine rack and read comic books until the fresh ink would turn my fingers black and he would yell "Hey Bernholdt, this isn't a library!" Sometimes I wouldn't hear him because I'd be so lost in the world of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's creation, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It almost sounded too ridiculous to be true and that's what I loved about it. On rare occasions, when I had enough money, I'd buy that comic book and race home to read it over and over again.

Back when "Totally radical" and "Cowabunga" were common phrases, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know who Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo were. While at Target the other day, a woman at the checkout peered over at my items: Vintage TMNT shirts for the kids and me. "Oh are the Turtles back?" she asked me. "In my house, they never left" I responded.

When I started mowing neighbor's lawns for pocket money back in the day, I also started buying up all the TMNT toys. Once older, I put them away for that day when my own children and I could go back to those days together. It's the reason we squirrel our childhood things up into the attic for that "someday" in the future. Part of bringing back the things from our childhood also includes—not surprisingly—food.

You can't watch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show without getting a craving for pizza. The two things are synonymous. To this day, I can't scarf down any pizza without thinking of the pizzeria fueled ninjas yelling “Turtle Power!” Every day after school, my brother and I would come home ravenous, but we weren’t allowed to use the oven. This is where Ellio’s Pizza came in; from frozen to toaster oven, it was an easy snack to prepare without violating mom’s “no oven” rule.

So, it’s only natural that nowadays when my kids and I watch episode after episode of the turtles eating pizza, we all start hankering for pizza ourselves. For me, this triggers memories of watching cartoons and eating pizza after school all those days. That's why creating a #Pizzastalgia night together with Ellio's Pizza is the perfect fit for our family – it’s the common denominator that brings us all together. What’s more, Ellio’s frozen pizza is easy to make, and all my kids love it. Those are qualities that are hard to come by in our household. 

An Ellio's #Pizzastalgia TMNT night usually begins by playing with the old toys I bought as a youngster with money I made when I mowed lawns for the people in our neighborhood. Playing with the kids gives me ample time to warm up my toaster oven and cook the Ellio's Pizza. In just fifteen minutes, we’re all ready to chow down on some 'za and as a parent, I feel good that what I’m serving them is made with 100% real cheese with no artificial flavors. Then, I just pop in the retro cartoon series and hang with my dudes and dudettes. When it's time for bed and story time, it means taking out old issues of TMNT and reading a few of Eastman and Laird's storytelling before bed. My little ninjas are usually ready to crash in no time.

Do you have an idea for a #Pizzastalgia night with your kids? What would you bring back to share with them? What retro things from your childhood would you introduce to them? Share your photos of a #Pizzastalgia night with Ellio's Pizza and your family via social media. You can find  Ellio’s on Facebook InstagramTwitter and Tumblr and for more information on their awesome pizza (including where you can find Ellio’s near you) check out the Ellio's website.

Don't forget to join us TONIGHT—Thursday, May 19th—at 8pm ET for the #Pizzastalgia Twitter party with Life of Dad and Ellio's Pizza. Cowabunga! 

Tween Drama, There's An Ep. For That

You're awkward and your body is changing. Your voice cracks at the worst times. You may start to feel like the opposite sex doesn't have cooties anymore. In fact, they may seem to interest you more than you would like to admit to your parents though you would be mortified to let on that you even like anyone, you know, in that way.  You may begin to dress differently or be persuaded by your friends to do things you normally wouldn't do. There's so much more drama than you would have ever imagined. Before you knew it, you made it into middle school but it's not as easy as you thought it would be.

Parents, this is middle school. Remember the awkward times? Remember how clumsy you were or how your feet seemed to be ten times bigger than you remembered them? Remember feeling out of place trying just to fit in? The middle school years are a difficult time. It's confusing to navigate all these changes in personalities and friendships. Suddenly, you are a parent of a tween and you don't know how you got there. School is different and your kids are different so how do you help them remain themselves among all these changes?  The key is communication. But how do you broach these difficult times with your kids? Netflix has an Ep(isode) for that.

Many of the episodes and movies on Netflix include examples of common problems that tweens and teens are facing in and out of school today. Watching episodes together can open up conversations with your tweens when just asking outright might make it more awkward. Here are a list of our favorite shows and movies that bring up common issues our kids face today.

A.N.T. Farm is a great show about Chyna and her friends Olive and Fletcher who are gifted students so advanced, they are moved up to Webster High School where they try and navigate high school while in the A.N.T. (Advanced Natural Talent) program. There are some great episodes that revolve around friendship, honesty, and growing up while feeling out of place.

Lost & Found Music Studios is a great show about musically talented tweens and teens who compete to be the elite music talent of a program designed to develop their talents. While competing, they run into issues with friendship, creativity, and sometimes romance between their interactions with their peers.

Lemonade Mouth, a book written by Mark Peter Hughes, follows the rise of a bunch of misfit kids who accidentally find each other in detention one day only to form a band in a school that only sees sports as a worthy extra-curricular activity. Along the way, the learn how to deal with their collective and personal struggles as individuals trying to make their mark in the world.

If you were a fan of Boy Meets World with the ups and downs Corey Matthews and Topanga Lawrence's relationship, Girl Meets World is a similar version with their daughter, Riley this time navigating her ups and downs with friends, family, and life in junior high school.

Okay, this show isn't so much about tween drama as it is about funny, silly things that kids have to deal with but this show makes me laugh every time I watch it. Featuring special agents, Otto and Olive, the agents of Odd Squad have to go around righting wrongs in their town using math skills to solve problems. This show is delightful and the cast is incredibly funny.

If you are looking for a show that is uplifting to young girls then Project Mc² on Netflix is the show for you. Project Mc² is like having that A Ha! moment in science class or solving that equation on the smart board in front of the class. Four girls navigate high school while using their specialized talents to solve mysteries while working for a secret spy society. A show that uplifts the importance of girls mastering S.T.E.A.M? Kids will enjoy the tween drama but also learn something along the way too.

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by DadNCharge on behalf of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seven Tips For Moving with Children

We hadn't had a showing in weeks, the house was a mess and it was time for the baby's nap. My son was throwing a tantrum because I couldn't understand what he was trying to say which meant that mac and cheese I made for lunch was all over the floor. The phone rang. It was the realtor. Someone wanted to come see the house in an hour. I had a one hour window to make it look like no one lived there. Such is life when you're trying to move with children.

I've moved my fair share of times in recent years. As a stay at home dad and husband of a hard working corporate mom, you have to be willing to seize opportunities when they come your way. That was the case in 2008 when my wife was offered a position in her hometown of Rochester, NY. She had lived all over the place before she met me and was ready to strike while the iron was hot. I had at the time, never lived outside of the Chicago area and spent the first thirty-three years of life living near family and friends in Illinois, the same state I attended college to become a teacher. Ten years into the public school system as an art teacher, we decided to move away and start over in a new city where I knew no one.

At the time, we only had two kids, ages three and 8 months but the multitude of toys that covered the house was staggering. We knew after shopping for our first house that to be show ready, a home needed to be staged. It needed to look like no one lived there so that anyone who did want to see it wouldn't be hampered by the superheroes and blocks strewn about the floor. Instead of seeing the wall to wall plush carpet, they would only see that maybe this house wasn't meant for them because they didn't like kids. Whatever the reason, moving with children can be difficult and stressful. But it doesn't have to be if you follow these steps which make it easier for you and the kids.

1. Get rid of the clutter

All kids have their usual toys that they can't live without. We have found that unless you take them out where they can see them, kids don't REALLY know what they have in the toy department. That's why every time you go to a store and walk past the toy aisle they will say they want something. They have no idea what is in their inventory. So, when they are sleeping, pack up the toys they hardly ever play with in boxes and label them toys but place them in a closet with these words facing in. If they never see them, they probably will never ask.  Getting rid of excess toys will cut down on the times when someone wants to look at your house and when your move date arrives, you'll be less stressed.

2. Purge

As visions of gummy worms dance in their heads, you should take this opportunity to throw away anything that is unnecessary. All those McDonald's toys or the junk they get at birthday parties needs to disappear like an informant with cement shoes. Word to the wise, if you do throw things out, don't throw them in a high trafficked trash bin where they might see it and place all the throw-aways in a dark black plastic bag to avoid any accidental discoveries of their favorite popsicle stick they can't believe you are throwing away.

3. Don't buy boxes from stores

Pro tip for all of you out there looking for boxes. Moving stores are going to rip you off. Liquor stores have an abundance of boxes but while plentiful, most of them are not practical for packing. Look on Craigslist for someone who has recently moved who would like to unload their boxes. When we moved the first time, we were relocated and the movers provided boxes. Instead of recycling them at the new house, I separated them by size and sold them on Craigslist for a dollar a box and charged five for wardrobe boxes or speciality boxes for transfer of art or mirrors.

4. Set up your services early and cancel before your move out date

A former provider who I believed I cancelled service with, continued to charge me even after we moved out of the house where the service was provided. Keep records of who you talked to and when while dealing with hooking up new services or cancelling old ones.  Luckily, when we moved into our new home we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the house was already equipped with Verizon FiOS. If you've never had their 100% fiber optic network, get ready for crystal clear picture and a network that you can count on. Find out before moving if Verizon FiOS is available in your new neighborhood before you decide that it's just easier to go with what most other people in the area have. The last thing you want is to be in a new home with no access to the kids' favorite shows when you want to keep them busy while you unpack.

5. Get the kids involved in packing

Our daughter didn't understand the concept of packing things into a box and finding it later at the new house. The last thing you want to do is pack something away that they MUST have with them like a special blankie or stuffed animal they won't sleep without. Pack these things in a backpack so that they can have their essentials. Any other needs should be packed in their own special box that they can put in your car or ship to the new house. Our kids loved opening up boxes on the other end and discovering what was inside so try to make it a little fun for them.

6. Prepare the children for adventure! 

Show your kids on a map where you will be moving to. Make it fun if you are driving to your new house to play car bingo or airplane bingo. Include on cards things they may see along the way that are landmarks of the new home or area. Getting the kids excited about where they are headed instead of focusing on where they have been can help with the sadness of leaving. Spend the day prior to going to the new house at an attraction close to home so they can see that moving can be fun.

7. Camp out inside the new house

There will be a time for furniture that they can't put their legs on and beds that aren't as hard as the floor. Our first week in the new house, we ate dinner on a cardboard box and sat on the floor together while we ate. Sometimes, before the TV is even set up, this can be a great way to get to know your house. Sleep together in sleeping bags in a common area so they can get used to household noises or the settling of newer house. There's less apprehension about staying in a room you don't know if you've spent the night there with your loved ones before.

For more info visit Verizon's page to get Tips for Moving and share yours in the comments or on my Facebook page DadNCharge. Happy moving! 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly

Monday, May 16, 2016

Where The Wicked Become Rested and Are Crowned Kings

It never fails, my kids wake up at the same time every day. There's no sleeping in for them. They are morning people probably because they go to bed at a decent hour unlike my wife and I who get sucked into binge watching Netflix into the wee hours of the morning. They seem unfazed by the bleary looks on our faces as I try to brew our coffee without adding the grounds. Even daylight savings time doesn't seem to throw them off. Fall back or spring forward, it makes no difference to them.

There's no rest for the wicked they say. Well if "the wicked" means tired parent, I'm right there. On normal days I'm up at 6:45 a.m. every day making sure my son gets on the bus, getting my daughters ready for school, and then working around the house to ensure that things are straightened, pillows are fluffed, and everyone has clean underwear.

My first order of business is the dishes in the sink. I can't function unless it's free and clear like a clean slate to start the day. I need to make sure no one has to eat cereal out of the salad bowl with a gigantic serving spoon like I did in college. Being a parent is hard work and it all started with the children robbing us of our sleep and somewhere along the way, our restful ways. Remember when you would just lounge around the house doing nothing? Me neither.  

As a new parent, you don't really realize until you are in the weeds what it means to be sleep deprived. My worst bought of sleep deprivation came with our first child and then we had two more! Each time we had a kid, those hours just disappeared. We will never get them back but I try to get my rest in where I can. A body with no energy is not good for business no matter what your job is. To keep up with my kids I have to be well rested, that's why I am the #KingofRest. 

My wife's creepy obsession. Pictures of me sleeping.

My youngest daughter hasn't napped since she was eighteen months old. She always wanted to stay awake to see what her older siblings were doing. Even now, she only occasionally falls asleep in the car but it only happens when I have somewhere important I am supposed to be with her. She however, still finds openings for times in which daddy is at rest. I make a pretty darn good body pillow.  

When you're a busy parent on the go like me, you learn to adapt. You find ways to make sure you get your beauty rest and you take your rest where you can get it. That may mean taking a nap with your pets in the middle of the day, sleeping under your desk George Costanza style at work, or nodding off during your boss's presentation on TPS reports. When you are trying to get a little rest, it can happen in the weirdest of places. Sometimes, even the lull of the elevator Muzak can just get to you. 

Falling asleep at critical times during the day is no way to go through life. Sometimes it can be because your mattress just isn't giving you the support you deserve. Support is everything to a parent and Restonic mattresses have your back. Every Restonic mattress is handmade with better quality materials and greater attention to detail than comparably priced mattresses from other brands. Their mattresses allow you to stay in one position longer which prevents you from having restless sleep. Instead of waking up, a deeper sleep means your body has a chance that heal and restore the energy it needs to function.

Sounds good doesn't it? Imagine all the things you can get done with a well rested body. Instead of falling asleep on the rug, we can play with our kids longer.  We will be more productive at work and alert for when our boss offers us a raise for being on top of everything. And think of all the ways we use our beds beyond just sleeping. We fold our laundry on it, read to our kids on it, and we watch TV together as a family on it. Our beds are a place when the wicked become rested.  A mattress is just the the beginning of those dreams coming true.

Do you think you have what it takes to take my throne as the #KingofRest? By entering below, anybody has the chance to win a queen sized HealthRest® Mattress from Restonic. Invest in your health with one of Restonic's HealthRest® Brio™ Mattresses. Layered with latex and TempaGel® by Restonic and supported with a Trucomfort core™, a healthy, supportive night’s sleep is yours for the taking.

For more information on Restonic Mattresses visit: 

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Restonic Mattress for this promotion. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Going Into The Store Isn't Fun Anymore

I don't know about your family but ours is constantly on the go. There's school, after school activities, working out, meals to plan, clothes to buy, lessons to attend and supplies to be purchased. I've spent so much time in our family van that it's like a second home.

But as difficult as that is, my wife is at work every day, most days leaving so early I don't even get to kiss her goodbye, working her tail off to provide for our family. When she comes home, her work is not done. She finds time to help out with dinner, help me straighten up the house when I'm falling behind, and still manages to have quality time with the kids before they go to bed. I'm pretty sure she is Wonder Woman.

Honestly, I couldn't do this without her. She keeps us organized, on task and if you've ever been on the receiving end of one her spreadsheets, she knows how to get stuff done efficiently. In fact, she had a spreadsheet for our wedding. Four pages of where people needed to be, at what time, and what was supposed to be happening at that time.

Me, on the other hand, I'm a fly by the seat of your pants type guy. I often don't plan ahead and end up reacting to a situation as it comes. Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean that I'm less than prepared when it comes to shopping for special occasions like Mother's Day. Fortunately for me and guys like me, Sears is the perfect destination for Mother's Day shopping so head to and get started finding the perfect gift for the mom in your life.

You see, you can order things from Sears online and choose their pickup at the store option so that you don't even have to set foot in the store, drive and park in their In-Vehicle Pickup area and a Sears associate will bring it out to your car in five minutes or less at no additional charge. It's like a drive through department store!

If you've ever taken your little ones out for long car rides sometimes what happens is that they fall asleep. Ever sit in your car contemplating whether to wake them up and take take them in disorientated and cranky or do you just sit there and wait until they wake up?  What if it's raining or the weather is downright nasty? That's when going into the store isn't fun anymore.

The Sears In-Vehicle Pickup makes it so much easier to get what you need and be on your way. Because if you have ever taken a five year old to a department store they can disappear inside clothes racks, ask you for everything under the sun, and will of course need to use the restroom when it is on the opposite side of the building therefore letting you do your impression of The Flash as you pray they can hold it before you get there. Instead of showing off your speed, let Sears show off theirs. Park in the designated In-Vehicle Pickup area, select Tools and Services and select In-Vehicle Pickup. Once you click your items, a counter will start telling you that your items will be in your car in 5 minutes or less.

Sears had my Mother's Day gifts out to my car and in the backseat at 4:41 but I didn't have to get out to deal with a cranky kid or even take her out of the car seat. What a cool service this is, and imagine the possibilities for people who have trouble walking or are disabled in some way. It's easy shopping for everyone.

As a bonus, shoppers that use Sears In-Vehicle Pickup for their online purchases between Tuesday, May 3 and Saturday, May 7 are automatically entered for a chance to win a $5,000 Sears gift card! Alternatively, you can also click on and enter the Shop Your Way All For Mom Sweepstakes at

Sears is making it easy on you this Mother's Day, and we want to do it #AllForMom. No matter what type of mom you are shopping for, Sears has you covered.

  • The Fashionable Mom: apparel, footwear, accessories, beauty and fragrances
  • The Outdoor Mom: patio decor & furniture, lawn & garden equipment, bikes, swimwear, sandals, luggage, digital cameras and camping gear
  • The Fitness-Focused Mom: activewear, fitness equipment, headphones, juicer/small kitchen appliances
  • Master Chef Mom: Kemore appliances, cookware, plateware, cutlery and more
  • The Techie Mom: smart technology, tablets, cameras, TV’s and more. 

Visit Sears on Facebook and share your experiences with In-Vehicle Pickup on their Instagram

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Life of Dad and Sears. I have received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Help the Six Thousand

Imagine Radio City Music Hall filled to its capacity. It seats six thousand people in a sold out show and every seat is taken. Now imagine if every single one of them was a victim of domestic abuse.

Six thousand victims of domestic abuse every day have to choose between being homeless and returning to an abusive home. Six thousand people have to be turned away from shelters where they are safe from domestic violence because of a lack of funding for these safe places. Imagine having to make the choice between being safe and having a roof over your head every day.

In one day, the average human being makes 35,000 decisions from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. You have the chance among those decisions to change the lives of six thousand people whom you don't know. You have a chance to alter their lives for the good and protect them from harm.

Can you imagine what six thousand people displaced because of domestic abuse looks like? Imagine beds as far as your eye can see. Each bed represents one of those lives that you could change forever.

How you can help will seem insignificant to you but it can make the world of difference in someone's life who is a victim of abuse. HopeLine from Verizon provides this help and all you have to do is donate your old phones, equipment, etc. from any provider to help make that change.

How does this work and where does the money go? Phones that are donated are refurbished or recycled. The refurbished phones are sold, and Verizon Wireless uses the proceeds from the sale of any donated phone to fund non-profit agencies and to purchase other wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. Older phones that cannot be salvaged are disposed of in an environmentally sound way through an Environmental Protection Agency certified salvage company.

Verizon donates wireless phones, complete with voice and text capabilities, to local domestic violence shelters and non-profit organizations and agencies for use by victims and survivors. These phones serve as a vital link to support services and provide a safe line of communication to family, loved ones and employersSince 2001, HopeLine has collected 12 million phones and has seven million dollars in cash grants to domestic violence organizations in 2015 alone.

Verizon hopes that by supporting local shelters and charitable organizations, it can aid those in need by supporting victims, raising awareness, and educating communities. There might be an organization in your area that is already involved or you may know of an organization that would like to be a part of HopeLine.

If you have a phone that is just sitting around unused, it could change someone's life.Even if your phone is broken, it can still be donated. The phone will be dismantled for parts or recycled. Your old phone could be a lifeline for those in need or give someone a new opportunity to turn things around in their life.

Want to donate your old phone? Visit any Verizon Wireless store or mail your phone into Verizon to donate. Help support HopeLine by donating your unused phones and equipment today and let's make sure the six thousand are never turned away again. 

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE or #HOPE from your Verizon Wireless phone.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly #BetterMatters #ad 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Never Let Them See You Sweat

It's the toughest and most rewarding job I have ever had staying at home. Though some of it revolves around playing LEGO and dusting off your old Star Wars action figures from the attic, the reality is that staying at home is a mind-numbing exercise of repetition and schedules.

Working hard and playing hard for a stay at home parent are one in the same. I swear sometimes I feel like a human jungle gym. Dad on the floor is code for jump on my back and let me ride you like a horse. Ever try to tell a five year old that you were just too tired to play and that you were going to "rest your eyes"? You might wake up and find yourself tied to some train tracks if you do. For that reason, I look for things in my life that don't know the meaning of quit.

I used to be able to count on the kids taking naps so that I could get some work done around the house. Instead, it feels like I am raising locusts instead of children as once I get one room straightened up, another becomes completely destroyed. And so, the clean up starts all over again only this time I try to time its actual completion for when my wife comes home. This way I can show her visual proof that the rooms were once actually clean enough to run a vacuum through instead of the angry vacuuming over LEGO pieces and Rainbow Loom bands I do during the second cleaning.

These days the schedule is much more frantic and with all the extra curricular activities in addition to schoolwork I'm constantly logging miles on the minivan, picking up friends and shuttling them around all the while planning and making meals I know most of them will dislike or complain about.

It's a lot of pressure keeping everything moving smoothly and you have to be adaptable. What you don't have time for is stopping. You should know if you're considering staying at home, that you'll want to train like you were for a marathon. From the instant my kids wake up (and it's the same time no matter what savings time it is or time zone for that matter) they are non-stop action.

When the kids were small, I actually was able to go to the gym everyday and I could count on a shower with the kids watched for the two hour maximum while contracting whatever disease was lurking on the toys in the child care room. I'm sure the guys at the gym would wonder why the guy in the first stall seemingly worked out for an hour only to shower for just as long. It was because I was cleaning off days of funk, not hours. Nowadays, I can't guarantee that I will get an uninterrupted shower penciled into the schedule so I rely on the good people at Old Spice to make me presentable to the rest of the world.

I don't dress to impress but I let my #smellegendary status speak for itself. Using Old Spice's Hardest Working Collection Dirt Destroyer Body Wash and Odor Blocker antiperspirant means that I can still turn heads for all the right reasons. In fact, at a recent trip to the arboretum, the flowers were so impressed, they wanted to smell me.

If you don't believe me, come to Philadelphia and smell me. Can't make it to Philly? Still skeptical?  Old Spice is willing to back it up with their 1-800-PROVE-IT Challenge. Old Spice is so confident in the Hardest Working Collection that the product comes with a money-back guarantee – as seen in a series of humorous digital infomercials hosted by Product King® Bob Giovanni. You aren't impressed? Call 1-800-PROVE-IT for a full refund and Bob will give you instructions about how to proceed. Convinced you want to be as fresh as me? Nice! Before you rush out and buy The Hardest Working Collection, use this coupon and start smelling up to your potential.

Look for my Old Spice giveaway in June for Father's Day & Learn more about Old Spice and their Hardest Working Collection on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Old Spice for this promotion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hiding In Plain Sight

It's dark where I am and quiet. It's just me breathing shallow, watching my breath become visible in the cool night air. It billows and vanishes like a gust of powdery snow and dissipates as if it were never there. People are looking for me in the night but they will never find me. I am the ghost in the graveyard.

From where I am sitting I can see the neighborhood kids running through back yards armed with flickering torches.  I can see their beams of light swallowed by the infinite blackness like headlights on a deserted rural road. Beyond its limited swath, the light is engulfed by the night. They won't dare to go farther than their light will allow them. The fear of what lies in the unknown blackness keeps everyone at bay, especially me.

Up here, is escape. I've climbed this very tree during the day when the sun lit up its arms; when the hard bark against my hands felt warm to the touch and the largest branches pressed up against my back to let me know it would hold me.

I've swayed along with them like I was dancing with the wind. I have watched them go through changes as we grew together. There's something about a tree that keeps us grounded; the narrowing of branches as you climb higher sets your limits. You can only climb as high as you feel safe and as you ascend the branches get less substantial and more risky.

I've spent lots of time in this tree. Sometimes I would climb until branches broke testing how far I could go and sometimes I've lost my footing and slid down a level or two praying the ground wouldn't rush up to meet me. Sometimes, depending on the conditions, I didn't know if I could go higher. Most of the time I was afraid to leave the lower branches because I knew they were a sure thing. My tree is safe and most of my life I've spent up in its safety afraid to come down.

You see, coming down from this tree means that I wanted people to find me. I would be discovered and my hiding place revealed. Leaving the safety of the branches meant taking on whatever awaited me in the dark and I've been to scared to admit that I've needed to be found.

I'm suffering from depression and this disease has a crippling hold on me. It's taken me years to write that sentence and not be afraid of what it means. No one told me I couldn't cry. No one told me to stop being a baby and act like a man. It's ingrained in any man who grew up thinking sharing our feelings was a bad thing and that our masculinity was tied to being anything as long as it was strong.

Those thoughts of fragility are always with me every time I cry at commercials with kids and their fathers. I get teary eyed at parent-teacher conferences even when they are good because I get overwhelmed. When someone gives me a compliment, I may laugh because I walk the line between being overly confident and self-deprecatingly humble. I feel sad and often worthless despite others trying to lift me up. I tell myself that I don't deserve everything I have and worry that it will all end before I can really enjoy it. My anxiety often holds me back from being the best person I can be and every time I feel this way, I scramble back up in my tree.

I've watched people from afar and I've admired their courage while sharing their story of this disease. For the longest time I wasn't truthful with myself about my feelings. It wasn't pride that held me back from admitting something with me has not been right for a long time, it was ignorance. I thought that if I just pretended long enough that nothing was wrong it would become reality. I believed that eventually because I would never reveal my true self, that it would all just go away.

Every day I've put on this mask for my children, not wanting them to know that their dad whom they look up to with reverence has a chink in his armor. Why do I feel that way? Don't I want them to realize that no one is infallible? Shouldn't I help them realize that we all make mistakes and how we learn from them is how we grow stronger?

In the most basic of cliches I didn't want to admit that I had a problem. When people would find out I was a stay at home dad I'd smile and tell them that I was "Living the dream" but I didn't always believe that and some days I still don't. Some days it doesn't seem worth it to me and as the laundry piles up and so do my responsibilities; the higher the stack, the harder it is for me to overcome this feeling that I am drowning. When I don't get things done, I feel like a failure. I can't bring myself to see that the tree while keeping me grounded, is distancing me from those people on the ground.

Sometimes, I climb down for my son or daughters. Sometimes I just feel paralyzed like I climbed to the top and I can't get down. When my daughter is begging me to go outside and play I just want to stay in my tree so I'd hand her a device and hide inside social media. When I feel most vulnerable I climb the tree to become the ghost again and disappear.

It hasn't been fair to my family but mostly of all myself, I realize now. Only after I sought counseling did I realize that hiding in my tree was keeping me from living my life. I felt like talking about it would make it real so I was against sharing how I felt. That admission was scarier to me than any height I might reach. Depression sends me clambering for the tree when things get tough because it is easier to hide and even more frightening to be found.

Depression has kept me from being my true self. It has kept me from my art and robbed me of my confidence.  How could I anchor my family when I felt as thin as the topmost branches? I've climbed up so high I was afraid of coming down so I've decided to descend from the tree one branch at a time.

I didn't know if I ever could come down. But I know this now, I'm leaving the comfort of my tree because for me being found isn't scary anymore. I can let go of those branches I'd cling to and head for solid ground. Those flickering torches searching for me in the dark aren't coming to get me, they just want to shine some light on me and it is about time the ghost lets them.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Shows For Your Bros

Mom! He's on my side of the car!

No, I'm not but look how close I can get to the line. "I'm not touching it, I'm not touching it."

Mom! He's annoying me again!

Stop fighting or I swear I'll turn this car around!

If you've ever experienced this exact same conversation, it's a good possibility that you have a sibling. It's true, they are there to annoy us most of the time. Maybe they take our stuff or steal our clothes right out of our closet. If your creepy little brother ever embarrassed you at a slumber party by walking around in his underwear or your sister hogged the bathroom for far too long, you understand the torture.

They aren't all that bad though. My younger brother and I spent lots of time together playing after school, staging our own after school Wrestlemania matches, playing every kind of sport, and doing things that brothers do which in general means getting into everything but our homework.

As you grow up life's little annoyances become different and hopefully, your relationship with your sibling matures. They may still annoy you but as you move away from each other you may begin to realize that your time together is much different.

You may even be able to invite them over for a beer to watch Netflix together just as long as they stay on their side of the couch. So here are some shows that include brothers of all kinds that you can watch together.

Can't decide what to watch? If a game of paper, rock, scissors can't decide, leave it up to the Netflix Fortune Teller to decide for you. Your brother can't argue with fate. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Men, Our Real Strength Is In Each Other

They crowded in the tunnel together, arms around one another, hands raised as one. Kids all around clambered for a spot and waited with an outstretched hand just to get a touch from their heroes. The men bowed their heads together bound by similarity in pose but mostly in heart. They were here for each other win or lose but together all the same. They were there for sport but it is something bigger than that which brings them closer.

Men need each other. We need to talk to each other and help each other through tough times. There are too many men dying because of suicide due to mental illness because they believe they have no one to turn to and that no one with understand them if they do. We can't be afraid to show our emotions because we as humans have a basic need to be loved. Dove Men + Care did some research on men and their evaluations of male friendships. They found that 74% of men believe that pop culture does not give enough credit to the support and care involved in men’s friendship. It's not the softening up of men that people see as a problem, it's the lack of belief that a man with emotions is something real.

According to research from Dove Men + Care over two-thirds of men say they bond with their friends over sports or fitness. It makes sense as we see it as an opportunity to share something we love with one another. I think of all the times I spent with my dad at sporting events; freezing our tails off at Bears games, watching the Bulls win championships, and travelling cross country with him and my brother to Cooperstown hitting every ballpark along the way. I cherish the bonds I have with both of them. Men together, win together whether in sports or life.

This March, Dove Men + Care gave me a real opportunity to share how much a relationship with my father means to me by providing tickets to a Sweet Sixteen game in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. My dad never shied away from showing emotion. I've seen him tear up enough times to know that crying isn't something to be ashamed of. When I called him up to tell him we were going to a March Madness game together I could hear it in his voice on the other end of the phone. "I'd love to go with you, that will be special." he said. We both couldn't wait.

In all our time together, neither he nor I had ever attended a March Madness game. I even made a sign that read "This is our first March Madness Game together, I'm here with my dad" and tried to get on the Jumbotron while we bonded over sports. Unfortunately we saw our Wisconsin Badgers fall to Notre Dame but the experience was unlike any other I've had with him. I was watching the game but began to see all around me the bonds of real strength between men.

What I did witness at the game was the ultimate collection of male relationships. I saw fathers with sons, coaches and players, brothers and brothers. As a team, you have to love and respect one another. You have to communicate and trust in each other to play at a high level.

On the court the crowd may have just seen men passing to one another but I saw that when they'd return during drills, they'd take the time to acknowledge their support with a slap of a hand. The culture of caring is something a coach teaches his/her players. You cannot trust someone completely if you don't love and respect them. You have to know that when you fall, they will still be there for you when you do. It's little things like this that let your brothers know that you are there for them.

I saw this brotherly love in the arms around each other's shoulders, a slap on the back when someone wasn't doing well as they headed to the bench, linked arms on the bench as they cheered their teammates on. After a loss there are hugs and crying because finding bonds of real strength in each other just makes sense. Here are examples of guys in sports, showing emotion, a thing that people say real men don't do.

Sports, in itself has emotion built in. Winning is a great feeling but what happens when things don't go our way? The reality is, we are there for each other. Someone must lose, it is part of the game. The agony of defeat among basketball players in the NCAA is consoled by hugs between men whether they be players or coaches who care for one another. After North Carolina's final loss in the championship to Villanova Roy Williams just said "I love my kids in that locker room". We play together, we lose together, we win together; but the important thing is, that we are together.

Visit to learn more about the ‘Bonds of Real Strength’ throughout 2016 NCAA March Madness and watch stories from other basketball coaches including this video of Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie.