Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Clarity of the soul - Blogging my way

I have mentioned in previous posts how cathartic I have found the process of crafting a piece for my blog. In writing about family, fun and life in general, I have found an outlet to explore and expand my inner creativity that hasn't really shown itself in many years.

Since graduating university (many years ago), getting married and becoming a father, I had always chosen to concentrate on growth in other avenues of my personality. I don't think it was a conscious decision, but over time, I had forgotten that I once had aspirations to be a writer and maybe even a poet.

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy with the choices that I have made. I have a great wife and awesome family. I live in an amazing city, have a stable, steady career with just enough income to enjoy a few perks without being too spoiled.

Rather, until I started writing this blog a few months ago, I don't think I even realized that I had been missing something. However, once the words started flowing onto the screen and the posts began piling up, I had one of those "Ah ha" moments: I had found a clarity of the soul through my writing.

Clarity of the soul - Blogging my way

Suddenly I started seeing the world with a slightly different lens. How could I write about this in my blog? Maybe I should take a picture of this because you never know when it would come in handy. A long forgotten, creative side of me started to surface and it was fantastic.

However, as I have gotten further along, I have also noticed the supplementary effort involved in having a blogging "career". I have become active in a range of social media avenues and spend a significant amount of time marketing my posts. I actually mentally refer to this as:

Flogging Your Blogging

Funny enough, I really like most of the various other aspects of blogging too. However, while I am committed to not just the writing, but also the marketing and the engagement/interaction, I think I need to do it my way.

In terms of blogging advice:

1. I have read many, many, many articles about setting schedules and posting at the appropriate time to maximize your reach.

2. I've  been told that I need to set up automated messaging for link notifications.

3. I'm often reminded (usually inadvertently) that I haven't written a piece for Huffington anything.

4. I now understand that my grainy images (see above) aren't going to translate well on Pinterest.

5. I get that you are supposed to pick a blogging niche and stick with it.

Guess what? I don't really care very much.

I'm not saying these aren't great ways to make your blog a success, but I think that's my whole point: Those are great for your blog and this is my blog. While, I get a kick out of the marketing, enjoy the interaction components of blogging and will continue to explore how each can help improve my blog, I really love the writing.

To make it really work for me, I want to do it my way. Even though I plan on continuing to Flog My Blog in hopes that I can grow and reach out to a broader audience, I'm also going to remember that at the end of the day, I don't want to lose that clarity of soul I have only recently found.

I wonder how many of my fellow bloggers have found a similar inner zen?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

At it again...The never-ending renovation continues

All right, I confess; I'm completely and hopelessly addicted. I have a deep seeded compulsion and worse, my wife just keeps feeding my habit.

I am a habitual renovator with no hope of recovery. Granted, there are much worse things to have as a habit, but nevertheless, I am hooked.

In the more than 10 years that Laura and I have been together, we have bought and sold several homes. We have spent a significant amount of time, money and sweat equity transforming each one to suite our tastes.

Ironically, every time we've gotten to the point were there wasn't much left to finish, we promptly sold and moved on to the next house. 

Once we made the decision to have children, we knew that we wanted to put down roots and buy a house with sufficient size in a great family oriented location. We finally found the perfect place in the burbs with more than enough room for our growing family. 

The only problem: Besides its layout and location, we hated almost every single thing in the house. Looking back, I secretly think the fact that we would have to renovate from top to bottom actually helped sell us on the house.

Fast forward almost seven years and we've gutted/rebuilt the kitchen (twice), transformed the living room as well as completely redone the basement. Last month I wrote about finishing the bathroom in the basement and some of the challenges of Renovating with kids.

I always knew when I started writing this blog that I would want to incorporate our renovating habit and even hinted in my Fall Preview that we were contemplating a possible renovation project. I also mentioned that we were planning to launch a YouTube channel. 

This past weekend, both have come to pass, when we recorded and uploaded the first in a series of short episodes centred around our latest renovation project. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be attempting to remove the existing tile in our front hallway and replace with salvaged hardwood floors saved from last year's living room transformation. 

(The Plan)

Tonight, I'm sitting at the kitchen table writing this post, filthy and sore, but extremely satisfied because I'm getting my latest renovation fix.

Up next: Carnage and destruction - Renovation dismantle.

PR Collaboration:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The list of things dad ....

I can't speak for other families and other dads, but in our house I have a list.

The list was created within a couple of months of the birth of our first child and has steadily grown since then. Each of my children has contributed to the list and all are aware of at least some of the items contained within. However, until today the list had never even been written down.

In most cases, making the list has a direct correlation to at least one or more of the following:

- The parent to child assistance ratio;

- The sharing (or lack of) quota;

- The clothing replacement equation;

- The jealousy factor; and

- The clean up / messiness parameter.

I recognize the controversy that this list will undoubtedly create within the parenting community and I understand that by releasing it, I am opening myself to the wrath of my fellow parents.

I also realize that by publishing this list, I am drawing a line in the proverbial blogging sand and am likely making a statement about the marketability (or lack of) of my blog.

However, sometimes one is compelled to take risks and this is one of those times. So, without further ado, I present:

The list of things this dad hates

1. Balloons

2. Rocks

3. Markers

4. Stickers

5. Make-up

6. Toys with no off apparent off switch

7. Beads

8. Play-doh

9. Stamps

10. Paint

Do you have a list and if so, how does your list compare to mine?

PR Collaboration:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Social media and blogging: The PB&J of the internet

Confession time: I'm not the world's most knowledgeable social media user. In fact, I have been referred to as a bit of a fossil when it comes to my use and understanding of all the different electronic mediums.

While I was fairly quick to sign up for Facebook and have had a Twitter account for several years, I think it's safe to say that I have not exactly embraced either. Until recently, I used Facebook mostly as a meeting calendar and Twitter was solely reserved for local news updates.

As for Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn (I actually had to google how to spell this one), Periscope and all the others; I've only just scratched the surface in terms of understanding. I either still don't have an account or just set one up around the same time as starting to actively write this blog.

I'm a social guy and I use technology at the office every day, so why didn't I embrace even the most basic of the social media tools until recently?

Additional confession time: I'm not the world's most knowledgeable blogger. In fact I have been referred to as a bit late to the table when it comes to jumping on the blog bandwagon.

While I wrote a number of posts for my wife's old blog in 2012, I think it was safe to say that I didn't really embrace the whole blogging universe. Until recently, I would read a few race recaps every once in awhile and might click the odd share on Facebook, but didn't really see the appeal.

I like to write and pre-children, was a fairly vivacious reader of all kinds of literature, so why didn't I embrace blogging until recently?

Revelation time: Like a modern day Sherlock Holmes, my keenly honed mind has deduced the direct correlation between my blogging and my interest in social media.

Much like peanut butter and jam, I suspect I'm somewhat ambivalent to social media and blogging on their own. I'll have some peanut butter toast every now and again and smear a dollop of strawberry jam on an English muffin the odd morning, but wouldn't consider either my go to.

However, when I made the decision to start blogging, I also made the conscious decision to become active on social media. When I did so, something truly incredible occurred.

Like peanut butter and jelly, on their own, I merely tolerated social media and blogging, but together they make the most delicious sandwich on the internet. The richness of the intellectual stimulation of blogging is accented by the engagement with other bloggers and readers through social media. A perfect mixture.

Reflection time: Looking back, it's easy to see why I'd kept dipping my finger into the peanut butter jar of the blogging universe every once in a while. It's also fairly obvious why I'd occasionally ask the waitress of social media to bring me another packet of jam for my Facebook toast.

While okay with each on their own, individually blogging and social media just weren't appealing enough to become a staple of my every day electronic diet. But now that I've had a taste of them together, I'm going to be a lot like a typical 10 year old who insists on PB&J sandwiches every day for lunch and insist my blogging is mixed with a healthy dose of social media.

Social Media and blogging: The PB&J of the internet

PR Collaboration:

Friday, August 21, 2015

A toast: To 50 years

Today my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. That's right, 50 years together in wedded matrimony. It really is a remarkable achievement and the more I reflect on it, the more impressed I become at the magnitude of their accomplishment.

Tonight we will be gathering together with a few family members to share in some of the memories of my parents 50 years together. We're going to host a catered dinner with a personal chef so that the family can concentrate on conversation rather than preparation.

A few days ago Laura asked me if I had my speech prepared. I laughed and suggested that I would just make something up on the spot. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that 50 years of marriage is significant and deserves to be recognized properly.

Last night, as I lay in bed, I found myself tossing and turning, trying to decide exactly what to say. How could I summarize my admiration and appreciation for my parents and their time together in just a few words?

This morning my eyes popped open, I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I would write them this blog toast as a means of preparing my speech, of formally recognizing the day and as a way to capture my own feelings.

This evening, in between dinner and dessert, I will stand up, clink my wine glass with my spoon and speak the following:

A toast to my parents on this the day of their 50th wedding anniversary. 

A toast to your dedication to the institution of marriage and reverence for all that it means.

A toast to your perseverance, your tenacity and your unwavering resolve to make a wonderful life together.

A toast to the couple who have stayed devoted to each other for half a century.

A toast to the partnership that has worked so well and accomplished so much. 

A toast to you both for pushing and supporting each other throughout your journey together.

A toast to all the lives that your 50 years together has not only touched, but left a positive impression.

A toast to both of you for successfully raising two boys in a turbulent and tumultuous world.

A toast to you mom for teaching me to respect and care for your partner through the good times and tough ones.

A toast to you dad for teaching me to always cherish and honour your partner, as not just a wife, but an intelligent and thoughtful friend as well.

A toast to both of you for continuing to teach me and my children to enjoy life and all it has to offer.

A toast to each of you for making it seem so easy after all this time.

Somehow words cannot do justice to the awe and admiration that I feel when I think about the life that you have created with and for each other. 

Instead, I'll just asked everyone (at home or reading) to raise their glasses and join me in this simple toast. 

To my parents on their 50th wedding anniversary. I love you both. 

PR Collaboration:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Water - An imaginary PR pitch

When I took up blogging a few months ago, I knew there might come a time when my charismatic writing style might start to attract marketing and PR companies. When the irresistible allure of my silky, sweet prose would draw the product companies into my web of suburban chaos.

Well, it hasn't happened yet, but when the good folks in my imagination approached me during my run this morning about water, I must admit I was intrigued. Who doesn't like water and as an added bonus, since our bodies are mostly full of it, I think that may just qualify me as an expert.

As I was trudging through the 99% humidity and really regretting my decision to leave my hydration belt at home, the completely imaginary marketing manager, Mr H, launched into his pitch:

"Rob," he said, "You're a natural fit for this product. You drink water right? You swim right? I know you take showers, although perhaps not this morning, right?"

He continued, "We've had our eye on you for quite some time. Don't think we didn't notice all those tweets about having fun in the pool and your post on heading to the lake with the kids was pure liquid gold. (10-Reasons to pack up the kids and head to the lake) You just can't buy that kind of good publicity. We like what you're doing, but want to focus and streamline your overall approach and integrate more water."

Mr. H was joined by the equally unreal VP of Sales, Mrs. Two. "We're thinking about a long-term partnership here. Repeated blog posts highlighting the positive impact of water on you and your family. We're thinking multi-media campaign with YouTube videos, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Mrs Two hit a feverish pitch, "Love your blog and I'm just spit-balling here but let's go with it. Picture this: An Instagram video pops up. You and your gorgeous family are drinking cool, refreshing water, smiling and maybe the little one spills some. Everyone laughs and we fade to a cool, refreshing glass of delicious water. Then, follow this up with a whole series of in-depth blog posts on playing in the water. Think lakes, pools, rivers, sprinklers and water balloon fights. It will be epic."

At this point, she was almost shouting in my head as I trudged up that final hill and hit the home stretch. "I have an in with Mother Nature, known to us in the marketing circles as Ms O. She has guaranteed a torrential downpour and maybe even an early, freak snowstorm for your half marathon in October. What a closer for the whole campaign and we want Carews in Suburbia front an centre! Are you in?"

As I made the last turn and huffed my way towards my house, I nodded to my make-believe PR reps but felt I had to ask what was in it for me. I'm new to the blogging world, but even in my heat frazzled brain, I knew that they had come to me for a reason.

I needed to maximize my influence and leverage my talent. So, as I stretched out on the lawn in front of my house, I asked my imaginary marketing duo what sort of Return on Investment (ROI) I could expect for my participation. They looked at each other slyly,shrugged and simply stated, "You get to stay alive and healthy."

Who could argue with that kind of logic. So I took my sweat soaked self inside and headed straight to the tap for some ice cold water.

Maybe next time the PR folks won't just be made up and the result of possible dehydration? Maybe next time, I'll think twice and remember to bring a bottle of water out on hot runs.


PR Collaboration:


Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Blogger's Guide To The Blogosphere: Chapter 7 -The Parent Blogger


In a remote corner of the Milky Way there is a small star. Eight, sometimes nine depending on who's counting, otherwise non-descript planets revolve around the yellow ball of heat. In an infinite universe, with infinite numbers of planets, meteors and asteroids, this star and it's eight, sometimes nine planets should be little more than a footnote except for one curious thing:

The third planet is inhabited by an industrious species known as "Homio Sapiens" or humans. (Pronounced hyoo-muh n). In addition to war, football and entirely hideous artwork, these humans went and created something called the internet. The internet has enabled otherwise unconnected members of the species to band together in a virtual environment and discuss all the important matters such as; parenting, pottery and procreation.

What is even more remarkable about these humans (again pronounced hyoo-muh ns) is that they have created a separate classification within the internet known as the Blogosphere. This Blogosphere is populated entirely by something called bloggers. These bloggers, while mainly comprised of humans, are really a sub-species unto themselves. The Blogosphere is so vast and complex that to even begin to comprehend, it is necessary to further sub-divide these bloggers into separate and unique categories.

The Blogger's Guide To The Blogosphere is the definitive encyclopedia on the Blogosphere and provides a comprehensive analysis into all aspects of blogging. Like all books published by the Universal Publishing Company, The Blogger's Guide To The Blogosphere begins with Chapter 7 and works backwards as well as sideways.

Chapter 7: Parent Bloggers

Within the Blogosphere, parent bloggers are perhaps the most numerous and diverse of any of the unique categories. The parent (pronounced peərənt) blogger can cross a wide range of ages and genders.

Note: humans come in two genders; a male and the typically dominant female.

While not 100% certain, topics for parent bloggers tend to focus on the growth and development of the next generation of the human species. The blogs themselves typically concentrate on the habits, rituals and events caused or involving the progeny of the parent blogger.

The parent blogger can be further divided in sub-categories. While difficult to be definitive, as there is movement and overlap between the various sub-categories, in order to interact and blend into any parent blogging community, recognition is essential. A brief description of the most common sub-categories of parent blogger and in most cases a "link" to an example of one of their premier bloggers is provided below:

The Not Quite Yet A Parent Blogger: This sub-category is predominantly focused on the gestation period required to develop a new human. The typical gestation period lasts slightly less than one complete revolution of the human planet around its star. Blog topics can vary, but often focus on visits to the medicine provider, fetal growth, lack of sleep, partner acceptance and birth preparation.

The Not Quite Yet A Parent Bloggers are notoriously hard to track down and tend to interact with other parent bloggers only rarely. It is anticipated that a link will be provided in the second addition.

The Baby Parent Blogger: Baby parent bloggers are easily recognized by a sharp focus on sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Some, but not all baby parent blogs contain large amounts of visual images, are usually intently focused on the developmental stages for these tiny humans (also known as newborns or infants) and descriptions of bodily functions.

Baby Parent Blogger Example: My kid doesn't poop rainbows and other parenting realizations

The Mom Blogger: The mom blogger sub-category is perhaps the broadest and least easily recognizable within the parent blogger category. Luckily almost all mom bloggers tend to self identify, making confirmation relatively simple. However, because most mom bloggers also focus on a wide range of blog topics, they can be found within other parent blogger sub-categories and even other categories. Mom bloggers are often sought out by the other parent bloggers for advice and guidance.

Mommy Blogger Example: Domesticated Momster 

The Dad Blogger: The dad blogger, while less numerous than his counterpart, the mom blogger, also typically covers a wide range of topics and genres in posting. Dad bloggers typically are recognized by their male gender and tendency to associate with other dad bloggers.

Dad Blogger Example: The Dad Network

The Multiple Child Parent Blogger: Parent bloggers with more than one, typically more than two progeny can be further sub-divided into the distinct multiple child sub-category. These bloggers tend to focus on organization, activities and in most visual images are shown with deep bags under their eyes. Warning: These bloggers often suffer from exhaustion and have been known not to suffer fools.

Multiple Child Parent Blogger Example: Sunshine Dad

The Humorous Parent Blogger: Perhaps the least common and rarest of all parent bloggers. While most parent bloggers have been known to cross into this classification temporarily, few can be definitively identified. These bloggers are recognized only through repeated side-splitting blog posts and numerous "I laughed so hard, I peed a little" comments.

Humorous Parent Blogger Example: R is for Hoppit 

Thus concludes Chapter 7 of The Blogger's Guide To The Blogosphere. Additional chapters will identify and demystify the Run Blogger, the Fashion Blogger, the Self-Help Blogger, the Blog Blogger, the Technology Blogger and the Professional Blogger.

As with all Universal Publishing Company products, outside contributors are welcome and updates will be made with each addition. Should readers know of unmentioned or undeveloped parent blogger sub-categories and link suggestions, please respond in the comments section.

Special thanks to the not quite alive Douglas Adams for creating the incredibly funny The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and providing the initial inspiration for this post.

Check another great blog The Playground at the End of the Universe  from a fellow blogger who's also been inspired by the great Douglas Adams.

PR Collaboration: