Into the Scrum

Recently I posted something into one of my theoretically secret Dad Blogger groups. I was asking if anyone had a contact at a company I wanted to propose something to. And one of the guys did, I thanked him and one of these days I’ll send a note to the contact he provided. Then literally the next day, and pretty much every day since. I see a Facebook ad for the brand I was talking about on my feed. It was like Facebook is psychic or has some algorithm that scours everything you type and spits out ads. I’m guessing the second.

But on the other hand, I have been really enjoying the new podcast Into The Scrum hosted by Doug French and Jeff Bogle. And six weeks into their podcast, it seems like each one is talking directly to me. This past week’s episode loosely called “Yes And” Jeff talked about some dark times he was going through this summer, which he appears to be getting past, while on a sponsored trip. I was driving across the 59th street bridge in NYC and boom there it was. The issue I have been dealing with for a few months now. Like Jeff, I have been dealing with some personal issues, and it was causing me great anxiety both personally and professionally. How do things in real life affect things in my digital real life? I am still figuring that out. And I know I am being super vague. But that is how it has to be right now.

The guys talk a lot about impostor syndrome, and yeah if the guy who started the premiere gathering of dad influencers and one of the most well-known and respected dad bloggers feel it, I can feel it too as I wait for possible edits to a recent sponsored post.

You build something over time, and the base is becoming solid. It scares the hell out of me to imagine trying to start completely over in a new direction. Sorry, I’m being so vague. Wow, what a great endorsement for a podcast this has been.

Listen to two nice guys talking about the state of our mutual business of dad influencers, and then you start tearing up. FIVE STARS

In all seriousness, this podcast is inspiring. And I have taken a lot of tips that Jeff and Doug have given out and started implementing them in the way I conduct my business. I look forward to each Monday when the new episodes drop on Apple Podcasts (or wherever else you get podcasts).

So recently, in the tradition of giving back, I was at the sensory deprivation place The Float Place, for a post I was writing. And I struck up a conversation with one of the workers who was really intrigued with the idea of blogging. We spoke a little before I floated. And when I was leaving he caught up with me and we spoke some more. I gave him tips on how I work and my writing process. Writing for yourself first, then eventually other people might want to read it. I told him I often look back at my early posts and they are unreadable, to be fair some of them are amazingly funny. But it doesn’t matter, you can’t get good at something without doing it. So hopefully I influenced that guy to start writing something of his own, in the same way, Jeff and Doug have inspired me to re think how I do my stuff.

PS – Nugget is 9 and she needs to deodorize too. So the mouse is not alone.


Floating in the dark

There was a moment that the water beneath me and the darkness above me became one thing. And then all of a sudden I was that same thing too. 

I know that sounds weird. But it is the truth. I probably should back up a bit. A few weeks ago, my cousin, Paulie posted something on Facebook about floating in a sensory deprivation tank. Out on Long Island. And I was intrigued. So I looked up  The Float Place and made a reservation to float in one of the pools. The Float Place has three rooms, two with float pools and one with a floating tank. I opted for the pool because it was slightly larger.

When I arrived at the facility, I was given a tour and orientation by one of the staff members. The place and the guy were both very chill. He brought me into the room where I would be doing my float and walked me through the entire process. Then showed me where people go after the float, to the tea room to have some tea or water just to get yourself back to normal after the float and before you jump in your car.

So after the tour, I got myself ready. I switched off my phone, which was relaxing in itself. 90 minutes or so of total radio silence. I took a quick rinsing shower and stepped into what sort of looked like an industrial freezer, but filled with Epsom salt infused warm water. I sat in the water and closed door. Like my guide had mentioned the salt level of the water would make the floating just happen and my feet were trying to rise up from the floor of the pool, It was about a foot deep. The two float rooms are filled with 300 gallons of water with 1400 pounds of Epsom Salt dissolved in it. I laid down and my body rose up from the water I was half submerged. I turned off the light from the inside. It was super dark, and then a few minutes later the lights from the staging area went out as well and I was in total blackness. There was no sound, it was like space.

The Float Place which has been in business since 2015, boasts two of the largest float rooms on the East coast.

While you are submerged everything that you are stressing about floats away. Anxieties drift off into the ether. I'm not sure if I was drifting in the ether as well. That was unclear. During your time you become both aware and unaware of your body at the same time. It was like you were just your mind. I tried to sleep, but I just couldn't. I was relaxed but just not tired enough to sleep. Perhaps I realized that I was in the water and my natural survival instincts didn't allow me to sleep. Though a lot of people according to the staff are able to sleep while floating and they say that an hour asleep in the tank is the equivalent to three hours of REM sleep.   Then from seemingly underneath you some soothing music comes on, that is you signal that your time is up. But they were very cool about saying take your time, and that the music wasn't an alarm clock. It took me a few minutes to find the light, and I stretched a little, some of my muscles were a little cramped from lying still for 90 minutes. I got out and cleaned off the salt from my body.

I unwound in the tea room and headed home. I had a smile on my face and was ready to take on whatever was ahead of me with a clear mind. And like the guy who worked there said I slept great that night.

The Float Place has two locations on Long Island, one in Deer Park and another in Patchogue. Taking a float or two is well worth the money, for the peace of mind you get and for the escape from everything.

Disclaimer: The Float Place provided me with a complimentary float to be used for writing this post. But as always all opinions are mine. -NV


One day he will call me Dad

A few weeks ago one of my dad blogger friends put something up on Facebook. It was a short post about his eleven-year-old son informing him that he wanted to call him Dad from now on. I was sitting in the parking lot in my car after a long overnight shift and I was in tears. This son, was telling his father that he wasn't little anymore. No more “Papa” or “”Daddy” but Dad, what is next using first names? I knew that soon I’ll just be Dad. But that is the way it has to be.

In our society the father-daughter relationship is talked about so much. Daddy’s Little Girl, Daddy Daughter Dances, etc. And while that bond is super important, and our relationship with our daughters and their mother’s, show them how men are supposed to treat women. And that they should expect nothing less than that.We rarely talk about father son relationships, outside of having a catch as a little boy, and then fast forwarding to having a beer together when they become legal.

But the relationship we have with our sons is really different. In many ways our sons are an idealized version of our own boyhood. Not saying that they are there to finish things that we didn't accomplish. I want my son to be an Eagle Scout, not because I didn't make it. But because I can only imagine how amazing it will be for him, to earn that honor.

My son, is all the things I was not as a little boy. Adventurous. Athletic. Loud. Fun. Brave. Curious. Bold. But he is also like me as a little boy as well. Sweet. Shy. Sensitive. Helpful. Observant. Stubborn.

Being this little boy’s father has been an amazing journey. It's not just hours spent throwing a baseball, until I can barely lift my arm. Nor sleeping in a soggy tent, on a soggy night, on a soggy minor league baseball field in Brooklyn. But it's watching him learn to become a leader. Watching him figure things out on his own. Watching him turn into a better version of me. 

Maybe part of it is my dad never got to do those things with me. I was two years younger than my son is now when my father passed. And he had been sick for a while before that, so I wasn't at an age where I was fun yet. I think those two years me and the little guy had when I was home and he wasn't in school yet, gave us a special bond. Hundreds of hours spent in Gymboree's and Target stores will do that. 

Our relationship is different than the one I have with my daughter. But that is OK. They are different people, with different needs.

He still calls me papa and daddy. But one day he won’t and as much as that will break my heart, it will be OK because I will always have my memories of the sweet little boy and look forward to making new memories with the good young man I will soon meet.


Slip n Slide n Urgent Care

When you head out for a family adventure, you rarely imagine that the day ends up sitting in a very warm exam room at an Urgent Care center. And it is even more out of the realm of your thoughts that the patient would be your nine-year-old daughter.

We spent part of the day on a recent Sunday at Three Bear Acres in Creedmore North Carolina. The converted farm is wonderland for kids and active fun. Ninja Warrior style obstacle courses, a giant bouncy pillow, an awesome tree house and much much more. It was a hot day, so we spent very little time near the giant bounce pillow and retreated into the woods where there is this great slide. The slide which resembles a super-sized pine-wood derby track, runs down the length of a hill. The riders drag snow sleds retrofitted with skateboard trucks and wheels. Doesn't look super safe, but looked super fun. I saw how fast 60 and 80 under children were flying down the course, and decided that the wall of tires probably would not have stopped my momentum.

My daughter who is prone to overheating, wanted to check out the slip-n-slide. It was hot out and i figured her clothes would dry. So let's go for it I said. We walked over to the waterfront and along the side of hill of clay was the slip-n-slide. They had dug out two tracks and laid out the mats. There were hoses and sprinklers going down the length of the track. My daughter then son, took turns sliding down the bumpy track. There was laughter and squeals of joy. And then I hear a scream. “DADDY!” I see my daughter crumpled on the ground half way down. I run towards her, fearing the worst. Trying not to slip as I ran down the damp grassy hill. When i get to her she says her ankle is hurt. I ask if she can stand. She doesn't know. I helped her up. She was able to put a little weight on it. And knowing her pain tolerance, her ankle was probably not broken (but I'm no doctor). I picked her up and walked here over to a bench. She was pretty hysterical. Her brother kept sliding. 

We looked at her ankle and it seemed a little swollen. The staff at TBA brought us over some ice, and when they saw I was going to carry her back to the parking lot, they offered us a ride in one of the Polaris off-roaders, which was awesome. We headed back and my son stayed with his grandmother and my wife and I took Nugget to a local urgent care. They were so super nice they put her into a wheelchair and we watched Disney Channel as we waited to be called in. 

We wheeled her in. And the staff was so nice to us. The nurse, took all her vitals and we waited for a doctor to examine her. Now we waited and waited. We had to explain to her that at Urgent Care center’s the staff has to prioritize the patients by the seriousness of the illness and injuries. Eventually the nurse practitioner stopped by, she examined Nuggets foot and ankle. We would need to get some x-rays. They brought us some beverages, since we had been waiting so long in seemingly the only non-air conditioned room in the facility.

The x-rays didn't show a break, which is a good thing. But there was a sprain and bone bruise. They wrapped Nugget’s foot with some ace bandages and fitted her for crutches. She will be off her feet for a few weeks, so Fall tennis is probably out of the equation this year. But she will be ready to walk around comfortably by pumpkin picking season.

As bad as it was, she remained a trooper and we stayed calm for her. It could have been much worse. And luckily it was not. When we got back, her little brother was the perfect little guy. He moved her crutches when she sat down to eat, and brought them back to her when she needed to get up. We raised some good kids.


Sometimes you want to listen to some death metal

The other day I was at one of the last FYE stores in New York. One of my buddies was browsing, he ended up with a few Jackie Chan movies for his kids. So I had time to look around I grabbed some new headphones and checked out some of the latest metal albums. the first one that caught my eye was Dear Desolation by Australia's number one deathcore band Thy Art is Murder. Admittedly you need to be in a certain kind of mood to listen to death metal, but there is only so much of the SING soundtrack a man can listen to. I found the album on Amazon Music and as I ran some errands the sound of TAM blasted in my ears. Their music is loud and aggressive, but also oddly melodic. I'm pretty sure I was the only person listening to Slaves Beyond Death as he put a 20 pound container of kitty litter in his shopping cart. That is one of the things that I really like about Amazon Music, you can listen to full albums and individual songs. And unlike old school streaming/download sites its totally legal and the artists get their fair share as well. Its great to listen on the go or at home with my Amazon Echo.   Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial you will not regret it.


Game of Thrones:The Sins of the Father 

In the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, fatherhood plays a big part. Either walking in their father's footsteps, repenting for their sins or trying to erase their legacy. Despite being off camera (deaths 17 years before the series, in season 1 and season 4) for many years they are still a driving force behind the moves of their surviving children.
Daneryes Targarayan tries to distance herself from her father Aryes “the mad king” who burned his enemies. She has tried to be a benevolent ruler, but like her father she has used fire to vanquish those that got in her way or opposed her.
Then there is the specter of the former Hand of the King Tywinn Lannister whose effect on his three children has affected the history of Westeros. From the daughter who soaked up all the lessons her father meant for her brother who would rather hone his sword than his mind. And the other brother who despite rejection from his father, would become almost his father's equal in his prowess.
And lastly Ned Stark, whose children reflect the kindness, honesty and loyalty of their Lord Father. His eldest son died practically saying “this is what father would have done”. His daughters grew into the young women that would bring honor to their family name. One as a Lady of the realm and the other as a faceless man. Despite their divergent tracks in life, they remained fiercely loyal to each other and to family.
The kind wolf dies but the pack survives
But no one was more like their father Ned Stark, like his bastard son Jon Snow. Fiercely loyal to family and friends. He protected the weak and always tries to do the what he believes to be right regardless of the consequences. Even refusing to lie when it would be convenient. Ned wouldn't do it, neither does Jon.
But the last episode of Game of Thrones season 7 of the program revealed that Jon was not actually Ned’s bastard, but that he was the legal child of Ned’s sister Lyanna and the crown prince of Westeros Rhagar Targarayan. Which anyone with the internet knew years ago (R+L=J) It hasn't been revealed to Jon (or Aegon as he was named at birth) his true lineage. He will no doubt find out soon after another tryst with Danereys (his aunt). But how will this rock Jon’s world. He spent his entire life trying to be like a man he thought to be his father. But now that man (his uncle) who was known for his honesty is revealed to be someone who kept up a lie for decades.
In the end he will probably be more like his adopted father/protector Ned than anyone else because that is who raised him to be the reluctant hero that he is. From bastard to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to King in the North to well we don't know that yet.


Lord of the realm 

Do you want to hook me? Refer to me as M’Lord when I walk over to the will call window. Ok, Medieval Times: Dinner and Tournament you've already won. That was how we were greeted when we arrived at the Castle in Lyndhurst NJ recently. From the instant you walk inside you are no longer ten miles outside of New York City, or a mile and a half away from the New York Giants playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in a preseason game, but you are in medieval Spain at the castle of King Don Carlos. 

The kids were blown away by the enormity of the main hall, with its shops, bar and staging area for King Don Carlos to perform a knighting ceremony. We had been to Medieval Times years ago and didn't remember it being this elaborate. But then again seeing it through the eyes of children makes the experience very different. 

We checked out the dungeon, which was a museum of torture devices. There were so pretty terrible ways to punish people back then. Soon they started seating people, we were sitting in the red section. The royal box was just to our left and infront of us was the indoor track where soon knights would battle as we feasted. 

The show was so entertaining and everyone let their inhibitions go as adult and child alike screamed and cheered for our champion the Red Knight and booed and hissed at his rival the Green Knight. It was so much fun. What was great was there was always something different to see, from the knights playing knightly games (basically trying to grab things with their lances at full speed), showing off of horse maneuvers, a live falcon flew over the crowd and lots of pageantry. 

They wove the story of the tournament to cue the servers when to feed the assembled lords and ladies. The food was terrific, tomato soup, garlic bread, roasted chicken, corn and potato. I had mentioned that there were no utensils here my kids looked at me side eyed. And low and behold no utensils. But surprisingly it ended up not being very messy. 

As the tournament went on the knights threw flowers to the ladies and little girls in their sections. My daughter nearly had a heart attack when a pink carnation ended up right in front of her. There was action, and comedy. It is a perfect evening for the entire family. It was never scary and not as crude as the renaissance faire can be. 

As the evening went on the Red Knight ended up victorious and led the charge to defeat some Northern invaders. The assembled crowd gave aloud and boisterous round of shouting HUZZAH! 

We left the show super happy. The kids talked about it all the way home. It was a really great experience. 

The staff at Medieval Times are first class, they stay in character and make everyone feel like they are the ruler of the realm. Huzzah to them as well! 

Click here to get a great discount for your visit to the Castle. 

Disclaimer: Medieval Times provided passes to me and my family, but as always all opinions in this review are all my own. 


A hero's journey playlist

Every hero goes on a similar journey. At least according The Hero with a Thousand Faces the 1949 Joseph Campbell book that talks about his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies. 

In Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, which is now available on Digital HD and coming to blu ray/DVD on August 22nd, Starlord and his band of misfit cohorts try to defend the galaxy from the evil overlord Thanos and other much more spoilery villains. Starlord, is inspired by his ever present mix tapes. Who doesn't like a good mix tape? But me without ideal tape deck, I'm forced to make digital playlists like this killer GOG - Hero's Journey playlist. 

What makes a good hero's journey playlist? Well it starts with an epic battle. The bad guys are seemingly coming out of everywhere and in a whirlwind of chaos. I chose BABYMETAL’s Gimmie Chocolate to represent this moment. The chosen messengers of the Fox God were seemingly destined for this moment. Swirling metal and and flashing lights fill the land until a lone hero emerges. With bravado and bombast and LL Cool J’s 1990 hit Mama Said Knock You Out. While the villains thought our hero was gone. He has been here and ready to restore the balance. 

Don’t call it a comeback I've been here for years!

That was pretty easy defeating those minions. Almost too easy. That's when our big bad arrives. Loud, angry, in your face and totally in charge. Truly The King Of Rock, of whichever rock he happens to be from. RUN DMC’s classic perfectly epitomizes the modern badass villain. Our hero is now pushed back he's on his heels. There is seemingly nowhere for him to turn. He's in his own hell, which brings us to the Meat Puppets Lake of Fire. This song which was popularized as a cover during Nirvana Unplugged in New York perfectly epitomizes the feeling of helplessness the hero has until he can come up with a plan. 

The hero needs a squad if he's going to defeat the forces of evil. So one by one he brings the gang back together all to the funky tune of The Magnificent Seven by the Clash. With the team all back together they are ready to take on the bad guys. Together. They race towards the battle and listen to Nirvana’s In Bloom, an amazing driving song if there ever was one. It doesn't matter if it's a car, a tank or space ship driven by a being who looks like but is most certainly not a raccoon. But rest assured our hero does have a gun. So does the raccoon guy. 

Everything seems to be going great when the hero and his friends are betrayed by one of their own. Our hero is devastated. The mission can't go on not like this. Weezer’s The Sweater Song (Undone) takes the hero into places he just doesn't want to go, dark places. Is what he's been fighting for all these years even worth it. 

But there is work to be done. And nothing gets a hero ready for a redemptive battle than a training montage. And if the hero is like me, and in this case he is. He’s listening to the same thing I'm putting on when I need a pick me up doing cardio at the gym House of Pain’s Jump Around. He’s all pumped up the team is ready and they are now ready for the final battle. The one for all the marbles and you hear the pounding beat rolling towards you. 




The villain has no chance now. Queen’s epic We Will Rock You is cocksure and bold. There is no doubt on how this ends. With the hero slightly battered but standing tall with his friends victorious as We Are The Champions plays. The remaining villains skulk away for the sequel. 

After the dust settles, the hero bids his companions good bye. Because his destiny lies in his own hands. He’s going down the only road he’s ever known. Just like the Whitesnake's stadium filling anthem Here I Go Again. 

What songs would you add to a hero's journey playlist? Comment below with your song choice between now and August 22nd when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is released on Blu Ray/DVD for a chance to win an epic Guardians of the Galaxy prize pack. 

Disclaimer: I was compensated by the brand for this post and playlist creation. But all opinions are my own.