Let’s Talk About Testicles For A Minute, Shall We?

Team Single Jingles Cancer Awareness

I know, it’s not a very comfortable topic, right? Unfortunately, the fact is that Testicular Cancer is the #1 cancer in young men ages 15 to 35?, so it’s a conversation that we all need to have with our children and amongst ourselves.

I’m proud to participating in the Team Single Jingles “Man UP Monday” project for a number of reasons. One of my friends was diagnosed, treated and cured of testicular cancer, while fresh out of high school. I also think it’s important for men to speak up, to let others know that it’s okay to do the same. Finally, I am father to a son of my own, who needs to know that Testicular Cancer is highly survivable if detected early and that the two of us should be doing a monthly self-exam.

I have never been one to shy away from visiting my doctor and I have vowed to talk to my son about taking care of himself, especially when it comes to the awkward topic of a testicular exam. I am now challenging you to take the same vow. That one, potentially uncomfortable conversation could be enough to save your child’s life and it’s absolutely one worth having.

For more information, please stop by the Testicular Cancer Foundation website
and Request a FREE shower card with self-exam instructions – it just might save a young man in your life! I’ll leave you with a great video, put together by the incredible Jim Higley, along with some of the other Single Jingles Parenting Crew.

My Social Capital Conference Experience; Or, How To Earn Klout About Sheep

Social Capital Conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual Social Capital Conference, right here in my hometown of Ottawa. Due to financial reasons, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out this year, but then out of nowhere, my knights in shining armour from Chevrolet Canada stepped in and offered to pay my way to the conference. I have no idea why they did this but I am grateful beyond words for the experience.

While I enjoy going to conferences for the content they provide, the real reason I love them is for the networking and social interaction, and SoCap certainly did not disappoint in that regard. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with some of my favourite online personalities and got the chance to meet some amazing new people that I hadn’t interacted with before. I tend to ramble on and on, so I thought it would be best to bullet point my highlights from the conference for you:

* Not five minutes into my time at SoCap, I had the pleasure of meeting someone I really respect in the social media space, in Susan Murphy. You might remember her from such twitter handles as, @SuzeMuse and @icanhazpodcast, and she was even nicer in person than I had imagined.

* Gini Dietrich’s opening keynote was excellent and I especially appreciated that she went through her whole blog writing and publishing process, as it’s something I have been struggling with lately. Also, I’ve been lurking on her, Spin Sucks, website and the community engagement is incredible. They welcomed me in group form after my first comment and I will definitely be spending more time there.

* Danny Brown was incredible during his closing keynote, doing everything but performing a rap number for us. Although he was informative and witty, I think my favourite part was the video with Dino Dogan and him, which spoofed on Danny’s unusually high Klout influence on the topic of “sheep”. That video alone gave me a ton of ideas and was well worth the price of admission.

* One of my main goals at the conference was to learn more about how to shoot and create proper videos for my blog. Both roundtable sessions I attended provided more information than I was prepared for and the conversations have continued to this day. For that, I have to say special thank you’s to a few people. First, to Kat Inokai, whose passion and energy for what she does make you want to jump right in and get started. Next to Heath Horejda for his expertise and amazing tips on how to properly conduct an interview. Finally, to Anthony Wong at Do More Video, not only for helping me find the tools I need, but also for offering and providing guidance outside of the conference walls. You were all brilliant in your own ways and I learned a lot from you collectively.

* The first time I met the Cocktail Deeva, Dee Brun, I was a shy, red faced newbie at Blissdom Canada. She made me feel welcome and even wiped the nervous sweat from my brow before posing for a picture that I would use to brag to my bloggy friends back home. Fast Forward 7 months later and I am a smart mouthed Dad blogger who isn’t afraid to jokingly mix it up with her during her presentation. Honestly, this was my favourite part of the conference. The engagement and laughs during her session is what I am all about and I’m glad I chose that one. Also, for those looking for my nude Google+ Hangouts, I’m working on it…

*Finally, just getting to spend time with my friends, to talk about our lives, our blogs and our causes, is what made this an amazing weekend. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Engagement with our peers. This was my third conference this year and the value I have gained outside of the conference walls has easily been worth the price of admission by itself.

In closing, I just wanted to thank the organizers for putting on an amazing show. Also, a very special thank you to Chevrolet Canada for allowing me to take part in this incredible experience. I will absolutely be back next year! Also, if you are reading this, please follow all the wonderful twitter accounts I have tagged in this post. They are all amazing and insightful.

How Princesses Provided A Fairy Tale Ending For One Little Girl

Official Princess Parties

The opinions on Princess culture run from those who love everything about the fairy tale stories, to those who think princesses are ruining our little girls and driving us further into debt with all the commercialization. I have always been in the middle. I love how much my little girl adores the princess culture but I don’t think it’s turning her into anything more than a little girl who has found something she loves.

I had a change of opinion this past week, however, when something amazing happened. My friend Christine, who blogs for “Life on Manitoulin”, was forced to take an emergency helicopter ride with her 4 year old daughter, who was experiencing severe stomach pains. When they got to Ottawa and were released from CHEO, following the little one’s surgery, I got the chance to spend some time with them. Her little one, tough as nails by the way, started telling me all about her favourite princesses, as little girls do.

Christine had asked me if I thought we would be able to hire a princess on such short notice and seeing as how I am no stranger to hanging out with and writing about all things princess, I decided to try to help out. I called Official Princess Parties, a company that has already impressed me in the past, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the kindness that followed.

I explained why I needed someone on such short notice and the owner mentioned that they were all booked up for the next couple weeks, but would send out a feeler to see if anyone was interested in the extra work. Not one minute later, while we were still on the phone, she had already received 3 messages back with people saying they wanted to help out. That would have been enough for me to sing their praises but the owner then mentioned that she wanted to provide this visit, to cheer up a scared little girl, on the house, and my heart exploded. Our princess showed up that night and had everyone mesmerized and smiling from ear to ear. She was perfect and it is exactly the thing that little girl needed at that moment.

Long story short, you can think whatever you want about the effects of princess culture, but this single event and watching the joy on that little girl’s face was enough to convince me of the overwhelming positives that can come from it. At the pace life is moving these days, sometimes it’s just nice to let kids be kids, and when it comes to princesses, I am fine with doing just that. Thank you to the amazing staff at Official Princess Parties for making this little girl’s pain a little more bearable.

Princess Funny Faces

Princess Beauty Julia

Princess Tiara

The Greatest Love of All

Love Those Kids

I don’t tend to do the Wordless Wednesday posts and I guess these words kind of negate this being one of them, but every now and then you take a picture that rocks you and this one did that for me. It reminds me of the lengths I would go to make sure they are protected and get the life they deserve. I love these little munchkins and wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

Michael J. Fox Is Back, Baby!

Michael J Fox Show

I was so excited to hear that one of my favourite Canadians, Michael J Fox, is returning to television! The Michael J. Fox Show starts this fall on NBC and combines humour, family and his life with Parkinson’s. I have been a huge MJF fan for as long as I can remember and it’ll be nice to see him back on my television screen.

Since his diagnosis in 1991, Michael J. Fox has been a strong advocate of Parkinson’s disease research. His foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, was created to help advance every promising research path to curing Parkinson’s disease. He has published three books, with my favourite being, “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist“. He is a proud father, proud Canadian and I am proud to share a nationality with him.

Seriously, this guy is an inspiration and I can’t wait for his new show to air. I’ve included a clip of the trailer below for you. Have a great day!

We Day Empowers And Inspires Our Youth To “Be The Change”

We Day

I’m going to do my best to accurately recap the events that were National We Day in Ottawa. Considering the magnitude of the event and effect it had on every single person there, I hope I can do it justice. We Day, for those of you who are not familiar, is an event from Free The Children founders Marc and Craig Kielburger, that inspires our youth to be the leaders in creating local and global change.

I spent the day, along with 5000 young adults who all EARNED their tickets to the event with community service, listening to incredible speakers like Martin Sheen, Spencer West & Rob Stewart, as they told their inspirational stories and encouraged the children to get out there and make a difference in the world, one small act at a time.

There were so many highlights from this event that it is impossible to list them all, so I’ll give you a few of my favourites. For me, it started in the backstage media room, where two very young activists anxiously awaited Free the Children founder, Craig Kielburger’s arrival, so that they could ask their questions and press him for knowledge about how they could make a difference. I hadn’t been there 5 minutes and I was already beaming with inspiration at how devoted they were to changing the world.

Next up was Ottawa native and double lung transplant survivor, Helene Campbell, who strode across the stage and spoke as if she had been doing it her whole life. If ever there was someone to channel when you feel like giving up, she absolutely fits the bill. My favourite part is when she challenged the now famous, YOLO slang, by offering up a much more suitable and inspiring term in Carpe Diem. It wasn’t the first time I teared up at the event and it wouldn’t be the last.

My most vulnerable moment came when young Molly Burke took to the stage. I thought I had done my homework on the speakers but somehow I had missed Molly’s bio and videos. Even typing this, I am welling up at how powerful her story of blindness and bullying was. Of everything I saw at We Day, Molly’s story affected me the most. Please take a second to watch a clip of her incredible story and share it with the children in your life.

While We Day is an event that was developed to inspire our youth to take action in creating change for our world, I can tell you first hand that the children are not the only ones affected. I spent a good portion of my day dancing, and wiping away emotional tears from not only the stories of the speakers, but also from watching how inspired all of the children in that building were. It wasn’t just those kids who experienced a change today, I felt it too. I am absolutely confident that my children are going to be raised as better human beings because I attended this event, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite messages of the day, from Marc & Craig Kielburger. It’s not enough to wait for the change or follow the change, you have to go out there and Be The Change! That’s a message I will be passing on to my little ones as they grow into young adults themselves. The event was amazing, I met some really awesome people and leave you with a small sampling of the pictures I was able to snag. I highly recommend attending a We Day if your child ever gets the opportunity and please read up on all the inspiring things that Free The Children are doing to help out both locally and globally.

Photo Bombing Martin Sheen!

Photo Bombing Martin Sheen!

Hanging with Spencer West

Hanging with Spencer West

Blogger, Shannon's View From Here's daughter

Blogger, Shannon’s View From Here’s daughter

Blogger, Macaroni Kid Ottawa's son

Blogger, Macaroni Kid Ottawa’s son

A Side I Never Knew I Had

Stars On Ice

I’ve experienced a lot of emotional changes since becoming a father, but crying at a Stars on Ice figure skating show was probably the most baffling one yet. I attended the show with my soon to be three year old daughter and had no expectations about how she would react to it. As it would turn out, we both loved the show but this is far from a theatrical review.

I always consider myself to be a lucky father, in that I have a regular day job and weekends free to spend time with my family. The blogging has provided my family with further opportunities but even without that, I feel blessed to get as much time with them as I do. And as much fun as it is to do group activities, it is the one on one time with my kids that I cherish most of all. This is the time that they get to shine and it’s especially great for me because they show me sides of them I rarely get to give my undivided attention to.

In my daughter’s case, she is very excitable and also has a tremendously big heart. She is so excitable in fact, that we once had to walk out of Madagascar 3, but not for the reasons you would suspect. We had to leave because every time a new character came onto the screen she would yell, “Lion, Lion, Lion!!!” or “Zebra, Zebra, Zebra! We saw a zebra at the Zoo!!!” Hilarious and frustrating at the exact same time because she didn’t understand why we had to leave.

Watching her excitement at Stars on Ice opened up a whole new realm of emotions that I never knew I had in me. I melted at the way she would yell out when she recognized a song, clapped vigorously at the end of performances and especially when the pairs skaters hugged at the end of their routine and she remarked, “Aww, that’s so nice”. The kicker came during Kurt Browning‘s “Singing in the Rain” performance. My daughter was getting a little tired but I have always wanted to see him skate that one live, so we stuck around. She sat quietly on my lap, hand in mine, with her head resting on my shoulder and we enjoyed the final skate.

I’m not sure how to describe what happened next. I’m guessing it was a mix of the perfection of the moment, the grace of the performance and Brene Brown’s vulnerability speech stuck in my head but I was suddenly forced to fight back some tears. I still have no idea what happened but I’m pretty sure it had everything to do with that little girl and the pride I have in being her father. It’s a side of me I hadn’t seen before but is definitely something I am willing to embrace.

For those of you who don’t know Brene Brown, here is one of her Ted Talks. She spoke at Dad 2.0 Summit and I carried her message back home with me.

Lessons Learned and Memories to Last a Lifetime

Happy Birthday

It started with a single email to another Dad blogger, which fittingly enough, was also my first mistake: “Hey man, I am just starting a new blog and was wondering if you could tell me how you go about getting to do the cool reviews of kid stuff?”

His reply: “Just network and be yourself. You’ll figure it out”

I left that interaction kind of confused and felt like he hadn’t really help me at all. Looking back at it a year later, it was actually a perfect answer and one that I have nothing more to add to. Just be yourself.

I’m a bit late on this one but back in February my little site celebrated its first full year on the internet. I would be lying if I used any other excuse but procrastination at the magnitude of putting together a “year in review” type post. In the end, I have found the exercise of looking back to have opened up a well of emotions that I never knew I had in me.

I’m not even sure where to start, to be honest. I guess the best place would be with my first post, which was a mangled tale that looks exactly like what someone’s first post should look like. In my excitement, I even approved and replied to a spam comment, like a true newbie, and have decided to leave it there to remind myself that everybody has to start somewhere.

Oddly enough, my second post was my first experience in dealing with a brand. I wrote an innocent post about how my daughter loved the website, JibJab, and received an email a week later from the owner of the site, who wanted to thank me for the post by sending t-shirts for the whole family. It was an awesome experience but also one that set me off on my year long journey of self discovery that I could have never imagined when I started this thing.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. I think I made every mistake in the book, not that there is a literal book, but if there is something people in the social media/blogging space frown upon, I did that thing. The thing I realized though is that everyone frowns on something, so you have to do your best to stay ethical and true to yourself. I have been lied to, had my ideas stolen, gotten deservedly schooled for writing crap, and even got called a sellout by someone who I thought should be working with me to help spread the good word of Dad. In fact, that particular interaction almost scared me enough to shut it down altogether after only two months of blogging. I’m glad I didn’t.

For every stress wrinkle this journey has caused, there has been at least ten positive and life changing experiences. I’ve attended a lot of events filled with incredibly kind people; some of whom went completely out of their way to make sure I fit in. For that, I am eternally grateful and will absolutely pay it forward when the time comes to do so.

The two big events, Blissdom Canada and the Dad 2.0 Summit, were both experiences that I will never forget. It is impossible for me to explain the impact that both of these conferences have had on my life as a human being or as a father. The opportunity provided to me by the organizers of Dad 2.0 to share a story about the passing of my father, is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It showed me that I am allowed to show vulnerability without feeling like less of a man and that I may even be able to help someone else by sharing my story. A lot of things changed for me that weekend.

I’ve always tried to give back where I can but the power of social media has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that are out there to help others. From sharing stories about bullying and featuring amazing children doing incredible things, to sharing inspirational stories from citizens and brands alike, I feel I have evolved into a different and much better person. The day I spent with my daughter in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, handing out Tim Hortons gift cards to staff and other worried parents, is something that I will be forever grateful for.

I’ve been presented with many great opportunities in my short time in this space and I am continually humbled by them. A few of my highlights include skating with the cast of Disney on Ice, playing CandyLand against a Harlem Globetrotter, being featured monthly on a radio show, convincing Jann Arden to call my wife on her birthday and being featured on the cover of the Lifestyle section of the Globe and Mail. I have also been fortunate enough to provide my children with things that we would otherwise never have been able to afford and I never take any of it for granted.

All of this said, there are two highlights that stand above the rest.

The first happened just recently when Canadian Tire responded to a commenter on one of my posts, by providing her children with new hockey skates because she has been unable to afford them. For me, it was a moment of inspiration in knowing that there is still a lot of good in the world. I have never worked with Canadian Tire and have no idea if I ever will but they won me over that day and showed me that I can help make a difference in the world.

The second is simply, the blogging community. Something that I think is often lost amidst the laughing, fighting and discussions about Pinterest is the fact that when this community comes together, we can do amazing things. Looking back at an improbable Movember campaign in which we raised $10,000 more than our original goal, or the amazing show of support for our ill or fallen comrades, the community is really the most inspiring part of it all. Knowing that you have the collective power to exact change is a strong motivator to continue building this thing. To me, the people of this community are more than just avatars or good contacts to have, they are friends and I’m not sure if you can quantify that.

It’s been a wild ride. People I idolized when I started out, now talk to me as friends and equals. I still idolize them, but I do so with a little less sweat than before. I have learned how to be a better person, father, husband and writer because of these people and hope to inspire others in the same way they have for me.

I don’t like to pass judgment on the way people run their blogs but I will say this; if you are running your blog like it is a competition against other bloggers, you are doing it wrong and you are missing out on something amazing. Kindness will always win out, I can promise you that.

Finally, I want to say a special Thank You to a couple people who have made this journey possible. First to my web designer, host and the first person to offer assistance while asking for nothing in return, Shawn Merrikin; thank you for not only setting this all up for me but also allowing me to text you in a panic at 10pm on a Tuesday because I somehow locked myself out of my site and thought I was being hacked. I can’t offer you anything but money, which you have turned down, but I’ll figure something out. Also, if you guys are looking for a host or web designer, this is your guy.

I save the largest thank you for my wife and children. My kids don’t really get it but someday they will see how much they have inspired the positive changes in me. My wife on the other hand, has been nothing but supportive throughout the blogging whirlwind. In a space that features about 10 female bloggers to every man, the trust she has shown in me just further proves that I made the right choice in marrying her. My family is my ultimate inspiration and the day this comes between them is the day I close the doors on the site.

So, yeahhhhh, about 1500 words later and a million more thoughts on an incredible year, I think it’s best to leave you with the most important things I’ve learned so far. Be kind. Respect opinions that differ from yours. Think before you speak (or write). Don’t feed the trolls. Be yourself. Give back. Finally, there’s always a better answer than to attack someone on social media.

Thank you to everyone for all of this. I don’t feel deserving and am humbled by every single person who has stopped by to read, chat or help me. I still have no idea what I am doing but I’m happy that I am surrounded with good people while I figure it out. Here’s to another year!

birthday cake

cupcake

Can You Really Do What Makes You Happy?

Tragedy and Hope

I watch the video below a lot. Part of it inspires me and part of it scares me to death. Could you imagine actually chasing after your dream with no regard for whether it will actually pay your bills or not? All in the name of happiness? That’s the part that gets my knees wobbling.

I have a young family and a steady job that does a great job of keeping a roof over our heads and providing us with some security. Of course I would love to make fun videos with the Harlem Globetrotters and Disney on Ice all the time. It would be great to get paid to write about fatherhood and share all of the things that inspire me in hopes of inspiring others, but it’s so hard to picture what that life would look like. Part of me thinks this video was intended for people without young families, but maybe I’m just too scared to imagine it.

How about you? Have you followed your dreams? If so, please share your story. If not, what is holding you back? Let me know in the comments and enjoy the video.

How Canadian Tire Made One Family’s Wish Come True

Canadian Tire

I believe very strongly in the power of giving. In the past few months, I have quietly started practicing a daily random act of kindness. It sometimes involves spending money but often is something as little as opening a door for someone or letting someone in line ahead of me. I never expect anything in return for any of this but I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some excellent news yesterday and I have to share it with you.

You may remember back in February, I posted an awesome commercial from Canadian Tire, that depicted a father and son going to the outdoor rink to skate and bond together. It was, and still is, my favourite commercial of all time. One of the commenters on the post mentioned that they hadn’t been able to afford skates for their boys but hoped it would happen someday. I’ve deleted that portion of their comment for their privacy.

The post faded into obscurity, as most blog posts do, until yesterday when I received an email from the people at Canadian Tire. They thanked me for sharing their commercial and asked for the contact info of the above noted commenter because they wanted to outfit her family with new skates. I’d be lying at this point if I said my eyes were completely dry after reading through their email and they didn’t get any dryer after speaking to the recipient of the gift. If I ever questioned what the ROI of sharing other people’s amazing content was, Canadian Tire answered it in incredible fashion.

I was already impressed with Canadian Tire for the way they portrayed the Dad in their commercial, but helping a family in need just put them way over the top in my books. When you do awesome things, especially in business, awesome things will come back to you. I hope creating two new life long loyal customers was enough for Canadian Tire in this instance, because they absolutely earned it!

Cheers!