Fashion Friday – How to Properly Shine Shoes

Shoe Shine Supplies Trunk Club

TGIF Gentlemen!!!  I hope this post finds you happy and ready to tackle the last day of the work week and before heading off into a relaxing and enjoyable weekend!

This is a re-post from an earlier blog entry but because it is such an essential skill I wanted to share it again today.

Today’s blog comes courtesy of my friends at The Trunk Club.  If you aren’t doing your clothes shopping through Trunk Club than you are doing it wrong.  If you want a hook up let me know and I will put you in touch with Katelin my personal stylist.  I do a good job dressing myself (ask my wife) but Katelin picks out some things I just wouldn’t think to even look at and it almost always looks amazing.  Seriously, you need to check out Trunk Club.

One of the most important skills we can posses as men is how to shine shoes.  Personally I am not great at it but I am learning to get better each time I sit down and shine em up!  You don’t have to do it yourself but there will be at least one time you will be in a pinch and need to give them a polish yourself.  Always good to know how to handle those kinds of situations.

It is actually easier than you might think.  You can check out this one minute video for an easy DIY polish.

Until Monday, make it a better day!

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Shining your shoes makes them shiny. That much we already know. But the benefits of hand-applied polish extend beyond mere looks. “It’s pretty similar to how we use moisturizer for our skin,” says Michael Barkin, senior director of sales at Trunk Club. “Shining your shoes hydrates the leather and keeps it from cracking.” Below Michael shows us how he keeps his shoes in tip-top shape, while also sharing his enthusiasm for professional shine stands.

DIY Shine

Michael polishes his shoes every morning, though he concedes this is a bit obsessive. For the rest of us, Michael suggests a monthly shine, or just whenever you notice a dull spot. “If there’s a scuff, put a little polish on it and within 15 seconds it will be gone,” he says. In this video, Michael walks us through his routine, using a pair of lace-ups that are still going strong after 12 years (proof that frequent shining really does extend the longevity of footwear).

The Shoeshine Stand

In addition to monthly at-home upkeep, Michael also suggests regularly visiting a shoeshine stand. The luxury of having someone tend to your shoes also has practical benefits: Because you’re seated in a chair, the pro can get better leverage over your shoes than you can when polishing them yourself. Plus, if you’re at a stand in Chicago’s Loop, you just might find yourself in esteemed company.

Discussing his favorite stand, Beehive Shoeworks (35 N Wells St), Michael says, “What I’ve always loved about shoe stands is you can run into some amazing people. At Beehive, you have the heads of major banks sitting next to 25-year-olds. Those two groups of people would never interact outside of the shop.”

Shoe Shine Shine Stand Chair Trunk Club

To get a firsthand dose of the stand experience, we visited Beehive and talked to the owner, Sam Shunnarah. Sam told us that the business opened in the 1950s and now serves 10,000 regular customers. He echoed Michael’s observation that these customers include everyone from undergraduates to former Chicago mayors.

Shoe Shine Shine Stand Beehive Shoe Works Trunk Club

Step one of Beehive’s process, which you should also incorporate into your at-home cleaning, is removing dirt and debris from the shoe’s surface. “The cleaning process allows the leather to breathe,” Sam says. “You want the pores to open up.” Then comes three coats of polish, starting with a brush application and ending with a deep rub. The final coat is spit-shined, an old-school method that enhances the shine and seals it. Once the shoe is brushed and buffed by hand, you’re good to go.

Shoe Shine Process Shine Stand Trunk Club

Sam notes that guys tend to leave the shop staring down at their feet. This rings true with Michael. “When you get a good shine,” Michael says, “you’re careful of how you walk because you don’t want to kick a curb. You go in with dinged-up shoes, and you come out looking really fresh.”

The best part of the whole experience? The price. It’s the best seven dollars a man can spend.

Pro tip: The shine stand in the American Airlines terminal at O’Hare is a favorite spot for Jason Smith, our VP of Merchandising. “It’s become a ritual, the start of a great trip,” Jason says of his visits to the stand. What about you? Leave a comment and let us know where your favorite stand is, or if you have any DIY tips to add to Michael’s.

The Importance of Filling Out Your W-4 Correctly

w4

Good day to you all!

Okay so this topic isn’t terribly sexy and certainly isn’t likely to generate a ton of interest (although it is incredibly important!) However, since I just had a child and had to redo my W-4 I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how to properly fill one out. In addition, I get a lot of questions about this from friends and family since I work in the tax profession.

When I looked into my current exemptions I was shocked to find out that my exemptions did not automatically carry over from New York to Missouri.  In other words, while my Federal exemptions (two) carried over my Missouri exemptions were still listed as one.  To be honest, once I utilized the calculator toward the bottom of this blog I realized I should have been claiming three last year, instead of only two.

So why is knowing how to fill out a W-4 so important?  Well that’s because this IRS form determines exactly how much money good ol’ Uncle Sam will take from your paycheck every pay period.  The more exemptions you can (rightfully) claim, the more cheddar you get to keep.

irs_sucks_stickers-rc47bb052be9f4b27937b5190b3182924_v9waf_8byvr_512Of course the IRS, being the IRS, filling out a W-4 can be very confusing.  Even though they have instructions and templates to assist you, it doesn’t really help.  Even worse, most companies don’t provide any guidance on how to complete the form either!  Rest easy.  Read the following and this will help you fill out your next W-4.

Important note: if after reading this blog you believe your current W-4 is not filled out correctly, you should speak to your Payroll or Human Resources person immediately and complete a new form. You are allowed to update your W-4 whenever you need to so don’t be intimidated if they try and tell you otherwise.  If you have recently been married (or divorced), have had children and/or you or your spouse no longer work since filling out your previous W-4 you NEED TO UPDATE YOUR W-4!

The Basics

Filling out a W-4 determines how much federal and state income tax your boss or employer must withhold from your paycheck. If your employer doesn’t give you a state W-4 to fill out be sure that your federal exemptions and your state exemption match. Many times they won’t and it is important they do.

Are You Exempt From Withholding

Chances are you are not exempt from withholding.  You can only be exempt from withholding if you have NO TAX LIABILITY.  This isn’t the same as getting a refund.  You must have no tax liability in the previous year as well as no tax liability anticipated for the current year in order to claim you are exempt from withholding.

How The Hell Do I Calculate My Allowances?

The easiest way is to utilize the Personal Allowances Worksheet that comes with the W-4.  If you are unmarried, have no dependents and are working just one job the worksheet is pretty straight forward.  Under those circumstances you can claim two exemptions; one for yourself and one for being single with one job.  You would then enter “2” as the total number of allowances that you are claiming on line 5 of your W-4.  That’s it.  You are done.

How many exemptions does she get?
How many exemptions does she get?

Now if you are married, have more than one job, will itemize or claim tax credits, things can get a bit more complicated.  That doesn’t mean you should be afraid or intimidated by this form.  For example, now that Sharlay and I have a child I am claiming four exemptions.  I am claiming on exemption for myself; one exemption for the fact I am married and only one of us is currently working; one exemption for my spouse and one exemption for Samara.  If we were making less than $65,000 a year we might be claiming more exemptions for the Child Tax Credit.

If you do not fall into the single with one job and no dependents category you can use the Deductions and Adjustment Worksheet to determine your exemptions.  This will be important to do if you itemized your deductions or claim certain tax credits or income adjustment.

If you and your spouse both work you (or you are single with more than one job) can use the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet. All of these things will affect your tax bill so use these worksheets to be sure you keep withholding in line.  You can also consult this IRS document for additional help.

Additional Tips

If you are married, both spouses are working and you file jointly, you should fill out the W-4 worksheets together to determine the total number of allowances you deserve.  Once you do that, divide the number between the two of you and then each of you can claim that number of exemptions on your respective W-4.

You don’t want to double-dip on deductions or credits.  Doing so will likely result in you owing a ton of money to the IRS.

If you happen to be a recent college graduate who has landed his or her first full-time gig there is also a way to avoid having too much money withheld if you aren’t working the full year.  You should use the part-year method if you expect to work less than 245 days (8 months) in the calendar year.  This allows you to set withholding according to what you will earn during part of the year at work, rather than 12 times your monthly salary.

You must give your employer a written request that part-year method be used. Unfortunately, they don’t have to comply, but if you are lucky to work for an employer who will assist you, you can count on getting a lot more dough on your first paychecks.

Can’t People Just Make Up a Number?

There is nothing that requires you to claim the exact number of allowances that you are entitled to (i.e. you can claim fewer exemptions than you may be allowed).  However, you can be penalized (big surprise!) for claiming more allowances than entitled to on your W-4.

How Often Do I Need to Fill Out a W-4?

A lot of people think once they fill out a W-4 they don’t need to worry about filling it out again.  This is the worst kind of thinking you can possibly be doing!  I have already outlined the reasons you should modify your W-4 but let’s review quickly.  First of all you have to fill out a new W-4 if you change jobs or if you add a second (or third) job to your schedule.  Yet even if you don’t switch jobs the following life events are all things that should require you to revisit your exemptions on your W-4: birth of a child, marriage and divorce. Again, you can submit a new W-4 at any time during the year to your employer.  Please don’t mail your W-4 to the IRS!  Your new exemptions should start taking effect on your next check.

Who Cares About This, If I Already Get a Huge Refund from Uncle Sam?

This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there.  If you are getting a large refund from the government every year it is probably because you aren’t claiming enough exemptions.  While a refund might seem like a good thing, it really means you are giving the moneyfederal government an interest free loan during the year because they were withholding too much of your money on EVERY CHECK! Isn’t Uncle Sam in your pocket enough already?

If you still want help you can utilize this easy-to-use withholding calculator to determine if you are claiming enough exemptions.  You will need three things: are you filing separate or joint etc, total taxable income from 2014 (or current tax yer); and total amount of your 2014 (or current tax year) refund.  Plug that information into the system and it will determine if you are in good shape or if you should make some changes.  Good luck!

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Devotional Tuesday – You Are a Person of Influence (Courtesy of The Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy)

R.I.P.Coach
R.I.P.Coach

But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words.  I never have been, and I’m not good now, even though you have spoken to me.  I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord [said]…”Go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”  But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send someone else.” Exodus 4:10-13

Too often we tend to think of our platform as something that is tied to our position or occupation.  We influence the people who work for us or who have a direct relationship with us.  Certainly we don’t have a platform to influence others outside our ares of authority, we think.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Dean Smith retired after thirty-six years as the head coach of the University of North Carolina, a number of sportswriters dusted off stories from his days as a young coach in the 1960’s.  Most people had forgotten or had never known the side of Dean revealed in the events that happened thirty years prior.

It was a tumultuous time in our nation and Smith put himself in the middle of it, repeatedly.  As stories go, he would invite an African American member of the community to lunch.  They would head to the most segregated part of town, whether it was Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro or other places in North Carolina or other Southern states.

People would stare and become angry at his audacity to do that in public.  Smith didn’t care and would blithely eat his meal, knowing they weren’t about to throw him out, as much as they might want to.

“He was a basketball coach,” some critics might say.  “What he did, well that was outside his coaching platform.  He overstepped his bounds.”

Wrong.  We all should be expanding our platforms, looking for ways we can influence others and situations for the good.  This doesn’t have to involved civil disobedience.  We can volunteer to tutor, car pool to soccer practice, or start a book discussion group.  Have a cheery disposition for everyone we come in contact with.  The list of options to make a difference is endless.

Uncommon Key –> Everyone has a platform, in different settings, with small groups or large.  What is yours?  Use it to make a difference in the world around you.  Don’t wait for God to send someone else.

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SOME (HONEST) OBSERVATIONS THREE WEEKS INTO FATHERHOOD PART II

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We are foregoing our usual Fashion related post today and instead tackling Part II of my post about my new status as father.  You can check out Part I here.

I hope you enjoy and that your weekend is a blast!

5. You REALLY don’t have time for yourself

All my friends who are parents attempted to explain this to my wife and I prior to Samara’s birth.  Yet, you don’t really understand what it means until it is too late.  Everyone told us we should go out as much as possible before she arrives.  We thought we did enough of that but it is clear we didn’t.

Children change your life; mostly for the better (but it is still early.) At least early one of the greatest changes is that you can’t really go out with your wife on dates.  We don’t have anyone here to watch our daughter and trust me, even if we did my wife wouldn’t leave the house without her.  Yesterday she barely managed to survive 50 minutes at the DMV while I waited in the car with our daughter.  We also learned yesterday that our daughter is a 120 minute (or so) ticking bomb of poop, anger and frustration.  We can take her out for just around two hours but after two hours it is lights out.  Crying, wailing, pooping, peeing, mean mugging, the list goes on an on.  Unless we leave the house with her immediately after a feeding we have a limited amount of time to get things done, let along have a nice leisurely meal out.  One day that will change, but not now.

When our daughter does sleep (regardless of the time) my wife and I are both torn, do we sleep; get somethings done around the apartment; or try and relax.  We only get one shot at it so it can be difficult to choose.  If I don’t feel tired should I still sleep, knowing that at some point I am going to be very, very tired?  What if I am tired but I really need to prepare a lunch for the next day for work?  I know I won’t get another shot at it before I wake up the next morning.

Priorities can be tough to align properly.  We are still trying to figure it out but more and more I am leaning towards sleeping.  Always sleeping.  Just like if you get arrested you always ask for a lawyer. No matter what.  Lawyer.

6.  Enjoy the small moments

My dad is so in love with Samara.  I had no idea my dad could gush over anything other than a large Walleye.  To use a phrase from my mom: he is "over the moon" about Samara.
My dad is so in love with Samara. I had no idea my dad could gush over anything other than a large Walleye. To use a phrase from my mom: he is “over the moon” about Samara.

Despite my previous entry, there have been small, quiet moments that my wife and I have been able to share.  We had one of those last night.  Almost a full 40 minutes of relaxing on the couch talking and watching TV.  Then we realized we probably should have been sleeping and immediately when to bed.

Still, it is these brief glimpses into our previous life together that has helped to maintain my sanity (to whatever degree you believe me to be sane.) Seeking these moments out and enjoying them for what they are worth is key to survival in the first few weeks and possibly months as a new parent.

Even better than the quiet times have been a select few times when we have laughed until we cried (mostly because of exhaustion but occasionally because we are funny.) Most of the times it has been at our daughter’s expense but she doesn’t know what is going on so it is cool.  Those moments of hilarity have also helped to save the day.

7.  Neither your spouse nor your child is the enemy

Not to put too fine a point on it but you have to allow yourself and your spouse some slack during the first three weeks of being a new parent.  Everyone is running on little sleep and in our case poor nutrition. Patience, understanding and letting things slide are the premium currencies you should be trading in during this time.

As men, you just have to cut your wife some slack.  That can be really challenging especially if your wife prefers to take care of your child and the cost of her own well-being (which Sharlay does all the time.) I don’t understand it too much to be honest.  I guess it is the momma bear instincts kicking it but it still drives me nuts and makes me mad. My wife will admit she has taken being neurotic to an entirely new level when it comes to caring for our daughter.  This can be good and bad but for the bad part of it I just have to let it go, which isn’t easy. All I can do is try to help her in anyway I can.  I can’t force her to sleep, eat or shower if she doesn’t feel she has the time.  This is a learning process for me and certainly not something I have mastered.  Just trying to help someone else out there.

As for your child, he or she is brand new to this cruel world and knows only a few things: sleeping, eating, pooping and peeing.  The poor thing probably doesn’t even have enough motor function to stop hitting themselves in the head when excited, angry or pooping (as our daughter does all the time.)  They don’t really know hate, love or the fact you need to be at work by 8am.  Despite my best attempts at getting Samara to “use her words” she only screams, farts, smiles or stares.  Not much you can do with that.  Do your best to love your child and understand they aren’t purposely trying to frustrate you or ruin your day.  Noshing on the boob is a hard knock life and they need some slack too.

8.  Be easy on yourself

I have wanted to be a parent for a long time (I am 39 after all) and wanted to have a daughter in the worst way since I was in college (thank God I didn’t have a kid then, I was a mess!)  Thus, I spent a lot of time learning from others how to be a good parent, and avoiding how to be a bad one.  I also read several parenting books, etc.

keep-calm-and-take-it-easy-74Yet despite all of that I make mistakes.  I screw up, am impatient with my daughter and my wife.  I snap at them both (not cool, I know) and am not always pleasant.  I have even managed to have at least one serious emotional breakdown during a very difficult day.

Just like you need to cut your wife and baby some slack, you need to do the same for yourself.  Whether you have always wanted to be a dad or you are suddenly thrust into the role against your will, you will make mistakes.  The important part is that you embrace your role as father and do the best you can.  If you find you are struggling with any aspect of parenting please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Help can come from your spouse, family, friends or professionals that are highly qualified to assist you.  Our hospital has a number of programs for both parents to help transition them into parenthood. Not all of these programs are well known or even promoted.  Ask your doctor, nurse or other medical professional what kind of classes or support systems they offer.  It isn’t always easy asking for help but that doesn’t give you an excuse not to.

Okay that does it for today!  Let’s hear what you think in the comment section below! Until next Monday, make it a better day!

Andrew

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Some (Honest) Observations Three Weeks Into Fatherhood Part I

 

One of my favorite pics so far!
One of my favorite pics so far!,

It has been a crazy three weeks since my daughter was born and man has it been a whirlwind of emotions.  I previously blogged about my experience one week after her birth and you can read that post here.

I wanted to spend a little time today going over some additional observations I have managed to take in since my last post. Like many of my posts this is going to a pretty honest assessment of my experience so far.  Any dramatic flares should be taken with a grain of salt of course but otherwise what follows will pretty much be exactly how I feel or exactly how I have observed things over the last three plus weeks.  I hope no one (especially my wife) will be upset with anything contained herein.  Now, if you are a parent, some of these you probably already know or have experienced.  The purpose of this entry is mostly for the non-parents and for any other parent (especially fathers) who have thought these things but were afraid to express them.

I am breaking this into a two part series.  I would be too tired to read this whole thing and you might be too!  Hope you enjoy!

What other suggestions do you have?  Let’s see them in the comment section below!

1. You can do a lot with only 2 hours (or less) of sleep

I mean I wouldn’t want to have to defuse a bomb or anything but I have been surprised how much both my wife and I can get done in a day even on very little sleep.  It is a bit more challenging at work but I have been surprised I haven’t collapsed at my desk in exhaustion, only to be awakened by the garbage collection crew late at night.

Granted there are times when we both feel run down and should probably take a nap but it seems to wear off just enough so when we need to get things done we don’t accidentally stick a fork in an electrical outlet.  Sleep isn’t overrated but I thank God parental adrenaline kicks in just enough to keep up going!

2. How in the HELL do you single parents do it?

I know many friends (almost all of them women) who had to raise a child (or children) without the help of a spouse/boyfriend/baby daddy.  I have no idea how you managed to do it.  I am sure some of them had a lot of support from family and friends but even then I still don’t quite understand how they do it.  Mad respect to those friends who are doing this!

Sharlay and I already agree we would have just killed ourselves (metaphorically speaking of course) if we had to raise Samara by ourselves for the first three weeks.  Of course we don’t have much support here in St. Louis as we have no family and only two friends. I said it before but thank God for Sharlay’s mom being here for a week and also for my parents coming down for 3 days.  We have also been blessed to have two amazing friends (shout out to Martha and Shawn!) here who have stopped by and left food and snacks for us. The ability to have adult conversations with other people is not to be overlooked as a necessary part of parenting a newborn.  Of course I can’t leave off without mentioning Uncle Kenny stopping by for a visit as well.  His Starbuck runs every day saved my wife and I (and no I am still not drinking coffee. Fight the power!) from imminent death.

Anyway, I say all that simply to tip my cap to all you single (or formerly single) parents out there, you know who you are!

3. Having a child isn’t necessarily a good thing for your marriage

Daddy’s girl indeed. In case you are wondering, that is her, “I am trying to poop” face.

While the last three weeks have been the most rewarding of my life, they have at the same time been the most stressful and frustrating.  I know it is hard to believe but if you are a parent you understand what I mean. That doesn’t mean however, that you HAVE to be a parent to comprehend what I wrote. Nothing irritates me more than parents who think only other parents can understand parenting issues, but I digress…

I am very thankful that Sharlay and I had a strong marriage and a solid relationship prior to our daughter’s arrival.  I can think of only one other time in our marriage (yes I know it has been only 2 1/2 years, shut up!) that was even remotely as stressful.

Running on little sleep, little food and dealing with a crying, pooping, hungry and angry little baby will add all kinds of stress to a relationship.  Add in differing parenting styles and disagreements on how often my wife should be awake, and things can get out of control pretty quickly.  Perhaps I am the worst father and husband on the planet but I have seriously questioned if we were going to make it to the end of the day.

When a couple suggests they should have a baby as a means of improving their marriage or relationship, they cannot possibly have no idea what they are talking about.  Prior to being a parent I always thought “having a kid to save a marriage” sounded like a bad idea. Now I know straight away that it is a terrible, awful, no good, very bad decision.  I am not sure how a couple without a strong marriage or relationship are able to raise a kid together, especially during the first month.

Of course if you are a pussified man, you probably shirk every single one of your fatherly duties, go back to work immediately after the birth and only come home when you run out of things to do at work or money at the bar.  In that case you have no idea what I am talking about and your wife/girlfriend/baby momma is a saint for putting up with your crap.

Fatherhood (like old age) isn’t for pussies.  Sure there are some men I know who despite being married turned their wives into single moms until the kids were old enough where they felt “comfortable” taking on the dad role.  That is the easy way out and a hefty amount of “man points” should be deducted from your account.

Fortunately for me, I work for a great company and they offer parental leave for mom’s and dad’s.  I have taken full advantage of that over the last three weeks.  I wanted to be around as much as possible early on to help my wife and to experience the joy of my daughter as much as I could before I had to go back to earning a paycheck.  Personally, I believe every man should not only feel that way but act on it.

Not every man has the option.  I totally get that.  If that is you, none of what I just wrote applies, unless of course you didn’t help your wife when you were home or  you purposely stayed away because you couldn’t hack it.  Everyone gets vacation days, you should use yours for the birth of your child.  It might not be a vacation but it will be more rewarding than any vacation you have ever taken.

Okay sorry, I am done.

4.  Be a dad, not a pussy

These two are probably not dad material in their current state. Yikes!!

See the three paragraphs above.  If you need more of an explanation read a book.

Okay that is it for now!  Part II will follow tomorrow.  Let us know what you think by leaving some comments below!

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