2/19/09 – a moment in time

Driving with Kids

I was up at 4:30am this morning, sitting on my couch, binge watching MadMed and thinking about how great it was to have quiet time to write. Just as I was in the perfect spot I heard the slow rattle of a bear and shuffle of my youngest son’s feet across the carpet.

Driving with Kids“UUUUGGGHHH there goes my free time” I thought but as he curled up on me he said “I just want to lay here with you. I love your birthday every day.” and fell back asleep.

Yeah, I went “awwww” too just like you did.

How did I get to this point in my life though? Not saying it’s a bad thing but what has happened over the years to bring me to this specific moment? Let’s as the Doc.

Doc Brown made this quote in Back to the Future 2 ” Unbelievable, that old Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance. Almost as if it were the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.”. I’ve joked about trying to figure out the significant moments in my life that could have changed the course of everything and skewed the timeline, similar to Marty, Doc and Biff. I found the date.


I look at this as a red letter date in my history. Significant things were about to happen and I was scared shitless. I won’t sugar coat it for you, I was freaking terrified but every bit of who I am today started on this date.

After 11 years this was the last day at my first “professional” job. Dad was a hard core union guy for the state and always told me that once you get into a corporation, you work there for life and retire with a pension. It’s “what you do”. That was before dot-coms disrupted all business models and I still thought we would last forever. Adding to the drama, we were expecting our first child in April, cars weren’t running well, our townhouse landlord was terrible to us. I thought the world was over and we’d have to pack up and leave.

I didn’t have time to sit back and dwell in my fear and anxieties. Six days later my first son decided he was ready and kicked his way out 2 months early. Everything in my life changed within hours and there was no one I could turn to because really, who the hell does all of this happen to at once?

There I was at 33, unemployed, baby in the NICU, fighting with the state over unemployment benefits, and experiencing levels of stress I didn’t know existed. My world was collapsing and I was on the verge of having a complete mental breakdown.

Thanks to amazing friends and family I kept going. I made myself stay strong and who I was started to come out.

I jumped full steam into my podcast and taught myself this new thing called social marketing and how I was going to sell my show which shot to the top of the iTunes charts. My corporate experience and new found knack for digital marketing lead to gigs in higher ed at RMU and back in the corporate world of CONSOL Energy before being laid off due to a sale in 2013. The silver lining was spending an amazing year at home raising 2 sons where I became a respected dad blogger and craft beer writer. No matter how much of a kick in the nuts each situation was, I came out a stronger person.

Today I enjoy my job kicking ass at all things digital along with speaking engagements on the topic, I have 2 rockstar knuckleheads for kids and the podcast is still a top 20 on iTunes. While I miss the old company and the people I worked with, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if February 19, 2009 never happened.

This is post 4 in the “100 Days of Blogging” with the Pittsburgh bloggers. If you’d like to find out more about the group, join us on Facebook.

It’s time for sideline coaching parents to get in the game.

I’ve volunteered to coach youth sports for 4 years and I’ve had it with a certain group of parents. I know that schedules can be so crazy insane that you can’t commit to helping out at your kid(s) game. Totally cool, trust me, I completely understand. I’m not talking about you right now. In fact I want to thank you for giving your child the opportunity to participate in sports.

Parents Fighting With CoachI’m looking at the bossy pants parents. The ones who complain every week about how expensive it is and tell you how to run a team and how their kid needs more playing time (even though every kid gets equal time) but never show their faces when it comes time to help out.

You know the people.

Trendy coffee-mocha-frappa-triple-espesso-something drinking, sporting yoga pants or sweatsuit wearing while looking incredible hungover or bragging about how they were all-city/state/county something. Oh and you, parent of the bossy kid who pushes kids around , quit jumping on the field to say good job and pose for a picture. Surprisingly this kid has been more girls than boys.

I’ve been fortunate that every team I’ve coached has had very active parents. Those people I like. They help out at practice when needed, drive kids around and bring snacks. Thumbs up!

So what finally pushed me to the point of writing this? I’ve received 3 emails this week from leagues once again begging for parents to be coaches and volunteers otherwise risk being too overwhelmed to have the season happen. I have 2 kids who play multiple sports and this past Spring I was pulling double time between 2 sports on the same day because there weren’t enough parents to volunteer. Like I said, I understand those who cant make it but if you can be in my ear every week about how to coach, you can be on the field helping out.

I’m not doing this because I need to run everything my kids do. Heck, I’d LOVE to be able to sit and watch them play for once instead of telling little Johnny to quit chasing butterflies, but I know that if I don’t help out many kids could miss out on the little bit of attention they need to get inspired.

This is post 2 in the “100 Days of Blogging” with the Pittsburgh bloggers. If you’d like to find out more about the group, join us on Facebook.

Battle of the manger scene

Manger Scene Without Jesus

Jesus Christ. He’s a cool dude. Would you celebrate the birth of someone who wasn’t? The Christmas holiday was always a big production in my house from the lights and Clark Griswold style decorations to the manger scene my gram made for us in ceramic class. Personally I’ve always been kinda meh about it but the kiddos have been warming up my Grinch like tendencies over the last year. I’ve started to rediscover family traditions and began a few of our own.

Every family has their own style when it comes to decorating for the holidays and yearly it causes a ruckus in my house. In fact the Christmas holiday season doesn’t kickoff for me until the first squabble over one question occurs.

Should baby Jesus be in the manger before Christmas?

When I was young the tradition was that baby Jesus stayed tucked away, usually in a drawer, until 12:01am on Christmas morning or the moment you get home from Midnight Mass and then you placed him in the manger. Simple right? Makes sense, eh? Keep reading.

.Manger Scene with Jesus Manger Scene Without Jesus

The discussion is usually like this.

Wife: Why isn’t baby Jesus out?
Me: Because he wasn’t born yet.
W: Yes he was, over 2000 years ago.
M: Yeah but his birthday isn’t until the 25th so right now we recognize the travel of everyone to the manger.
W: But he’s already born.
M: No he wasn’t.
W: Yes he was. Quit being stupid. We do this every year.
M: And every year I say the same thing.

This year we had an unofficial solution. I get a manger with no Jesus and she has one with Jesus. My family tradition, no matter how much it may seem odd, is one I’m keeping.

KISS Meets the Derda Family Halloween

When your 6yr old says “Daddy, I want to be KISS for Halloween!” one thing enters your mind. We’re going to need more makeup!

Yeah, I geeked out a bit when I heard those words and honestly I had nothing to do with it. OK, maybe something.

KISS Teaspoon Spoon

A few months ago I bought the boys “Scooby-Doo! & Kiss: Rock & Roll Mystery Trailer” on DVD and since then they LOVE KISS. The music is easy to sing, they’re mesmerized by the theatrics and the experience is, well, it’s magical.

Teaspoon’s original plan was to go as an Army guy so it seemed like a no-brianer to me that he would now be a member of the KISS Army while his brother was hellbent on being a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I’m not usually one to dress up but this holiday would be the first time I’ve had the makeup on since Halloween 1999 when I sported doctor scrubs and the Catman’s makeup for a stint as Dr. Love.

We spent the holiday at my brother’s since my mom was in town visiting and it didn’t take long before people started saying “You like Insane Clown Posse? COOL KID!”


Nothing against Juggalos but seriously, I even had a KISS hockey jersey on.

Halloween 2015 went down as a memorable holiday and one in which the bar has been set for Halloween costumes in my kids eyes. Next year I’ll have to aim higher. Anyone know how to make a working proton pack?

Derda boys hit the Pirates final home game

PNC Park

Fan Appreciation Day (a.k.a. final home game of the season) with the Pittsburgh Pirates was as much of a tradition as attending Opening Day when I was younger. I could dream of playoffs but next to the 90-92 run, the reality was that I was there for the giveaways or “Clean out the promo closet for next year!” day. Last Sunday I was able to relive those times as a kid with my oldest son.

Spoon and Teaspoon at the Pirates gameTeaspoon has been on me all summer to attend a ballgame and on Sunday the stars (and our schedules) finally aligned to make it happen but going isn’t cheap for a family of four. After a quick search of StubHub I scored 2 seats to the right of home plate for $20/each. Two not four? Cheeseburger was more interested in spending the day with his mom so I got lucky on this one.

Quick trip on the Red Line brought us down to the North Shore where we took part in the Sunday Pirates Kids Zone. Bouncy houses, face painting and plenty of fun activities for kids.

Having burned his energy outside, Teaspoon was ready to kick back and watch some ball. Actually he wanted food and he wanted it NOW! Since we were working on many firsts for this game I got one in for myself. A meal I’ve dreamed about for years but could never stand in line long enough to justify hunger over waiting. I finally had a Manny’s BBQ and the bbq pulled pork sandwich (pictured below) lived up to the hype I’ve been hearing. The secret is getting to the stand behind center field when the gates open to 45 minutes before first pitch otherwise you could be waiting awhile.

Before the game kicked off the Pirates saluted A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez who will be ending their careers at the end of the season. A.J. didn’t spend a lot of time with the Pirates but quickly won over the fans and team with his gritty presence. He’s a badass. This team would not be as successful as it is now without his leadership.

A-Ram came to the Pirates in the 90’s and bounced around the majors before returning here for one more season. He’s the last of the Pirates who can say they played at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park.

Just before first pitch came the last surprise, a monstrous weather balloon from the Carnegie Science Center which they launched 96,0000 feet into the mid-stratosphere! Cameras were attached to the balloon which you can watch in the breath taking video below.

Oh yeah there was a game too. Pirates held on to a 4-0 win against the Reds which leads to the NL Wild Card game tonight against the Cubs in Pittsburgh. Buctober is taking the country by storm and I’ll be on my couch with the boys catching every minute of it. They may get a pass to stay up late but they’ll have to clear it with their mother first.