Netflix Has Helped Perfect the “Night In”

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A night in in my 20’s meant defeat. It meant I was either being lame, I was too broke to go out, or none of my friends were around to hang out with me. Now, a decade and three kids later, I hold my nights in sacred.

I’m going to be honest with you and I won’t sound like the world’s greatest dad in the process. You ready? My night in only begins when my kids are in bed. Why? Because I love watching TV — binge watching TV to be exact — and that’s impossible with kids around. So when my personal tornado of insane monkeys is finally asleep in their respective cages, only then does my night in begin.

And it is glorious. Like Al Bundy hand firmly in pants while sitting on the couch wonderful.

I love/hate Frank Underwood and simultaneously root for him and curse his name during House of Cards. I laugh uproariously with Kimmy Schmidt. I marvel (see what I did there??) at the superbly choreographed fight scenes in Daredevil, and I hurt with every ordeal that befalls Jessica Jones.

I love Orange is the New Black so much I’m starting to think prison might not be such a terrible place. The gorgeous scenery and ugly family secrets in Bloodline leave me slackjawed, although it does make me feel better about my own family. I laugh at and mock Aziz Ansari in Master of None for all of his Millennial tendencies, until I realize I’m more like him than I care to admit.

Sometimes I’m in the mood for the wonderful slow burn and steady hand of Longmire, while other times I want the instant hilarity and raucousness of Scrotal Recall. And I’m always up for a martini or two with Don Draper and the rest of the Mad Men.

Although I certainly have a Fuller House than I used to, my TV time is even more sacred which is why my nights in are held in such high regard. I lay on the far side of my sectional couch — remote in one hand and a drink in the other — and I binge. The worries disappear and I’m lost in whichever world I choose for the night.

That my friends, is the real beauty of Netflix when you’re a parent.

StreamTeamBadgeI was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an smart TV. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

 

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The Importance of Legacy

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My biggest fear isn’t death, it’s not being remembered.

Irrelevance scares the shit out of me. To think I could die tomorrow and I’d eventually fade away like I never even existed? Terrifying. Ever since last week when I attended the Dad 2.0 Summit where the entire theme of the event revolved around the idea of legacy, I’ve been thinking about the subject. About what my own legacy will be. And about my friend, Oren Miller, who died exactly one year ago today.

How we’re remembered and the parts of us that live on starts with our families. If I’m worth a damn as a dad, my three boys will be the living embodiment of my legacy that carries on well after I’m gone. If I can raise them to care about others, to be kind, compassionate, and resolute, then that is a worthy legacy in and of itself.

But I want more than that.

As I spent time with Oren’s wife Beth last weekend at the conference, I watched as dozens upon dozens of dad bloggers introduced themselves to her and told her what Oren meant to them. It was extraordinarily emotional and meaningful. For those of us who couldn’t make it to Oren’s real funeral, it was a chance to memorialize him and say goodbye. But the takeaway for me? It doesn’t speak of finality.

We are a community of writers and our currency is stories. Oren impacted us in such a monumental way, and for that we have taken it upon ourselves to be a small part of his legacy by passing those stories around to a wider audience. And that comforts me beyond measure.

Hell, Oren even helped his own cause from beyond the grave (and with an assist from his beautiful, brave, and talented wife), who read a letter Oren wrote to himself. Check out the video (but be prepared to cry).

No one can live forever, but stories about worthy people can echo for an eternity. By instilling good values in my kids and surrounding myself with a community of storytellers, that opportunity is there. Now it’s up to me to create a legacy worthy of being mentioned well after I’m gone.

I write this piece two hours from running in a half marathon. On Cape Cod. In cold and windy February. When I saw the race was taking place on the exact one-year anniversary of Oren’s death, I knew I had to do it. And when people ask me about his name written on my running gloves, I tell them about a man I loved and admired. A brave man who scratched and clawed against cancer for 9 months when doctors only gave him one to live, because he wanted every single second he could get with his family.

None of us could cure Oren, but we can all do our small part to make sure his legacy lives on. He deserves to be remembered and he will, thanks to his family, friends, and even scholarships that bear his name to help provide for financially burdened dads. He put that much good out into the world and is deserving of every remembrance.

Befriending an army of storytellers is only half the battle. Now it’s up to me to make my legacy one worth remembering positively.

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Son, Be Brave At All Costs

Photo by Jason Rosewell
Photo by Jason Rosewell

An older boy told my son he’s a terrible singer and it shattered him. But even worse, it has the potential to ruin much more than his day.

Will, 7, has been practicing the Star Spangled Banner in music class for weeks. He sings it constantly around the house, to the point no one can question his commitment to practice. Whether or not he’s any good is immaterial, because he’s passionate about it and sings the song with fervor and glee. Also, he’s fucking 7, so there’s no reason to go all Simon Cowell on him.

We were at a party with kids we didn’t know, and they all went off to play together. After a few minutes, it was apparent they discovered the karaoke machine set up in the basement. I heard the little ones singing songs from Frozen, Princess and the Frog, and The Little Mermaid to name a few. But then I heard the familiar strains of our country’s national anthem, and I smiled as I listened to Will belt out the words with gusto.

But when he trudged upstairs alone a few minutes later his lip was trembling and he was fighting back tears. He retreated to the corner of an empty room, so I went to him and asked what was wrong.

“That boy said I’m a horrible singer and I should never sing again because I’m so bad, and nobody wants to hear it,” he said, eyes welling up with tears.

My first instinct, like all parents have when their kids are subject to unnecessary cruelty, was to find the little bastard and scare the life out of him. But since I’m an adult and that’s a crime, I had to come up with a better plan.

It’s easy to resort to platitudes at times like this. “Don’t listen to him” and “You’re fantastic” and “It doesn’t matter what other people think” are all old favorites and standbys, and could easily be implemented in situations like these. But I think, even at 7, kids know when you’re placating them with recycled advice that doesn’t truly take their hurt into account. So instead of trotting out those old lines, I asked him a question.

“Did he sing?” I asked.

“Did who sing?”

“The boy who made fun of you? Did he sing anything down there?”

“No, he didn’t sing. Why?”

I told my son the other boy didn’t sing because he’s a coward. And he felt so bad about being too scared to do something that he had to resort to insults to make himself feel better about being gutless. Whether someone sings well or not is far less important than having the intestinal fortitude to put yourself out there, and that’s what Will did. He took a chance and decided to risk it by singing in front of an audience, while this other boy took the easy way out and simply criticized others while watching safely from the sidelines.

The world has too many critics and not enough doers.

My boy, like his father, is sensitive. In fairness, sometimes too sensitive. But not yesterday. Yesterday he had a right to be upset and hurt. I hate that my kids have to face this stuff  so early, inescapable and necessary though it may be. The thought of them giving up on something they love because of cruel words from others just kills me, and it’s unsettling how years of parenting can seemingly be undone with one off-handed remark.

I’m sure the boy who said it isn’t bad, and kids say mean and stupid things to each other. It happens and I get it. But as I watched a carefree kid with a love of singing tell me he’s never going to sing again, my heart sank. Needless to say, he didn’t go back downstairs to join the karaoke party.

Later, during our car ride back home, I saw his face in the rearview mirror still full of sadness. So I grabbed my phone and quickly called up the national anthem and played it at full blast.

“Dad, don’t. I know what you’re doing,” he said.

I pretended I didn’t hear him as I sang along loudly. He rolled his eyes and went back to playing his Nintendo 3DS, determined not to give in to my ploy. But halfway through the song I saw his lips moving, mouthing the words. Then, toward the end, I could hear him. Softly, but I heard him singing.

“…and the home, of the, brave.”

Always be brave, kid. It’s not easy, but you’ll be better for it. I’m proud of you.

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Wasted Youth and 10pm Bedtimes

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Photo by Jordan McQueen

We heard them before we saw them.

Some background first. My wife and I were in downtown Boston celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. It was a blissful and rare occasion where all three kids were taken care of by relatives, the dog was temporarily re-homed for the night, and we were free to dine like royalty and use the city as our playground.

We ate a delicious meal at a small Italian restaurant in the North End. We had a few cocktails. We went back to the hotel lobby bar and had a few more. But soon we grew weary and decided to return to our hotel room.

The elevator doors were closing when a group of kids in their 20s yelled at us to hold the door, and then piled in. They were cocked. So happy, so giggly, so loud, and so carefree. Celebrating their friend’s 21st birthday in Boston, they had just finished pre-gaming and were getting ready to head out to the bars and really kick things into gear. Their night was just beginning as ours was winding down.

It was 10:07 pm.

One of the guys apologized to us for the raucous behavior. “Sorry sir, ma’am…we’re a little drunk.” Sir? Ma’am? Ouch. MJ and I smiled and told him not to worry about it, as we remember those days well. Those days — somehow simultaneously yesterday yet a million years ago. Fun to think about and even replicate once or twice a year, but now no longer wanted. The comforts of Netflix and a warm bed being the preferred option of Sirs and Ma’ams everywhere.

We looked at them and saw  youthful exuberance. The ability to push yourself without sleep and somehow feel like a million bucks in the morning. The gleam of adventure in their eyes, never really knowing what excitement the night holds but eagerly anticipating whatever’s in store.

We were once like that. But unlike many 30-somethings who enjoy looking down their noses and lecturing young people about TRUE happiness and REAL satisfaction that can only come from marriage and REAL love that “can only be had between a parent and child,” I don’t think that way.

I think they’re plenty happy. I know I was. Those years were some of the best of my life, and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. Even though some of them might one day choose a different path, I know marriage and kids is far from the only way to be happy. Satisfied. So I refuse to look at them with condescending pity like I know better.

I also see them look at us with a mixture of emotions.

They laugh at the thought of going to bed when they’re used to going out for the night. They tell themselves they’ll never be that old, and maybe they’re right. Or maybe not. Either way, they can’t fathom the idea of marriage, kids, and 10 pm bedtimes because why should they? Being in your early 20s is exactly the time to feel invincible and crazy and awesomely impervious.

And yet there’s a tiny glimmer of curiosity there. Could it really be possible to find one person and be happy? What’s that like? Maybe it’s not so bad.

And so it was — an emotional crossroads in a Boston elevator as the wild and careening trajectory of youth briefly touched the more measured plodding of the near middle-aged.

I think both sides enjoyed the interaction, but were glad we weren’t the other. As it should be.

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Play #SuperDuperBingo This Sunday & Win $25,000

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When the Patriots aren’t playing for the Lombardi trophy, I’m just not as interested.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. Hell, I’m willing to bet most people aren’t even serious sports fans. They like the VERY IMPORTANT FOOTBALL GAME WHOSE NAME, LIKE VOLDEMORT, MUST NOT BE MENTIONED because it’s an excuse for a party, you get to have a few beers with friends, and — most importantly — for the commercials.

Admit it, you know you love them. You crave them. You rate them in real time and decide which ones ruled the day and which ones stunk up the joint. You laugh because they’re funny, ridiculous, cringe-worthy, or just plain awful. But however you react, you’re watching. Always.

Well now you can watch AND win a year’s worth of mortgage payments and/or car payments.

Progressive Insurance is a client of mine, and I’ll be spending game day getting people to play their Super Duper Bingo game. They’re not spending a kajillion dollars during the game on an ad, opting instead to host this virtual bingo game that lets you play along with the commercials. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to www.progressivesuperduperbingo.com
  • Enter your email address
  • Get your Super Duper Bingo card on your phone, tablet, or laptop and keep it handy during the commercials
  • You’ll have squares like “Shirtless Dude” and “Perfect Beer Pour.” When you see a commercial that matches one of your squares, click on it.
  • You get an entry for your email, an entry every time you click on a square, and 25 entries for each Bingo you tally (4 in a row either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally)

And now for the best part, the prizes.

One grand prize winner will receive a year’s worth of mortgage (or rent) and car payments, worth $25,000. Five 2nd place winners will receive a year’s worth of car payments valued at $5,000 each. And 20 3rd place winners will receive a WiFi-enabled home thermostat valued at $250 each.

All for watching commercials and clicking a few buttons.

Yes I’ll be watching the game (Go Panthers, I loathe Peyton Manning and the Broncos), but this year — without Tom Brady the GREATEST OF ALL TIME — I admit I’m more interested in the commercials. I can’t win because Progressive is my client, but you can. So please click here to enter and keep this handy during the commercials so you can win one of these awesome prizes. Tell your friends, too, and if you spread this on social media (pretty please) be sure to use the #SuperDuperBingo hashtag.

Good luck!

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