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Dad Blogs Exposed! ~ Always Home And Uncool

This week on Dad Blogs Exposed, I had the chance to talk with Kevin McKeever from the blog, Always Home and Uncool. Kevin’s stylings can also be found over at Dadcentric. I had the opportunity to meet and share a stage with Kevin at this year’s Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas and was once again blown away by the kindness of a stranger. Kevin is effortlessly funny, or at least it seems effortless, and I’m glad to now call him a friend. Unless he takes the effortless thing the wrong way, in which case he was a fine “former” friend.

CD: Why did you start blogging?

KM: After being laid off from my job, I had to do something to prove to my wife that I didn’t spend all day at home surfing the Internet for revealing photos of Kari Byron from “Mythbusters.”

That and, after not writing regularly for six months for the first time in 20-odd years when I was a reporter or corporate communicator, I just felt the need to start putting something into words again for my own sanity’s sake.

CD: What can people expect from your blog? Do you have a specific goal or do you write whatever you feel?

KM: I mostly tell tales about my goofy self — as a dad, as a guy, as a man befuddled by the world around him. Sometimes I have a fleeting celebrity encounter, sometimes I shed a tear or two, but mostly it’s about me trying to make sense of my wife, kids and dog.

CD: What has been your biggest challenge as a father?

KM: Avoiding the ol’ “well, back in my day …” routine with my kids. Civilization advances and changes, and you can’t live in your past no matter how comfortable it may be. I try to adapt and grow with my kids not because I want to be the cool, hip dad but because I want to stay involved in their world. Nevertheless, I never bothered figuring out all that Pokemon stuff when my boy was young. What the heck was that about?

CD: What one piece of advice can you give to a new Dad?

KM: I’ll give you two.

a) Don’t panic. If you panic, all is lost. Keep your wits about you and you’ll survive it.
b) Don’t listen to me.

CD: Do you have any long term goals for your site?

KM: Dude, I don’t even have plans for lunch. Speaking of which – Hooters?

CD: What is your social media weapon of choice and why?

KM: I’m on Facebook because that where I seem to best be able to keep up with the people I care about. I have Google+ account which I’m starting to use some, and Instagram is nice, but I tend to post all that stuff on FB now that it’s integrated. Pinterest? No interest, but that’s me. Your mileage may vary.

CD: How has blogging affected your life?

KM: I’ve meet some truly great and generous people, online and IRL, through blogging. The support my family has received from complete strangers and Internet-only acquaintances whenever we have sought help to raise awareness or money to support research into Juvenile Myositis, a rare autoimmune disease my daughter has had since age 2, has been heartwarming and, frankly, unbelievable.

Huge thanks to Kevin for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions. I hope you’ll take some time to check out his site and say hi for me. See you next week!

The Time I Decided Not To Be Unhealthy Anymore

I have always been an athletic person. I played hockey and fastball at high enough levels to consider myself an athlete and assumed that I would be playing these sports well into my later years, as my father had. Life, it would seem, had different plans for me though. Six years removed from fastball and way too many years out of hockey and the only sports I excel in these days are of the fantasy variety. In my last few years as a ball player, my nickname was “Gutsy”, and that had nothing to do with courage and everything to do with a widening mid section. Oh yeah, did I mention that I make jokes to cover for the fact that I am so badly out of shape that I am actually afraid to do physical activity for fear of dying? Yeah, there’s also that.

I dusted off the scale the other day, as I sometimes do, and stared blankly at the numbers 203.2 looking up at me. This isn’t how I had pictured my 30’s, not by a long shot. Most days, I am so exhausted by simple, every day tasks that I barely have the energy to get off the couch. What little energy I do have goes directly to my children, which is great, but that means things like my marriage, work and website have all suffered.

Well, all of that is about to change. I’m tired of saying I’m going to get healthy, only to find a plethora of reasons to quit the gym and go back to my old Dairy Queen eating, pop guzzling, eating a whole box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in one sitting (not proud of this one) ways. I have now been to the gym for 6 straight days and have started Weight Watchers point tracking in hopes of getting healthier and living longer for my family and myself. I am 100% committed to creating a better me and won’t stop until I get there.

As I write this, I am thinking of how good those sweet, sweet Dairy Queen Blizzard’s are and am in the process of chaining myself to my bed with Duct Tape over my mouth just in case the Blizzard somehow tries to dance it’s way in. It’s going to be a long journey and I’m going to bore you with every detail about it until you can’t take it anymore. I’ve joined a group of my fellow Dad bloggers as well, in an effort they are calling “Chuck The Chunk”, so it’ll be nice to feel like it is a team effort!

Now, I believe we were talking about Dairy Queen…..

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

Texas Here I Come! #Dad2Summit

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You may notice the blog is going to be a little quiet over the next few days. That’s because I am leaving this cold, snowy home I call Canada, for the warm, sunny land known as Houston, Texas! I’m headed to Houston to attend the Dad 2.0 Summit, which is an annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood.

I thought I had shaken off the conference jitters when I attended Blissdom Canada last year but I am finding that I am way more nervous this time around. The funny thing is that the nerves have nothing to do with meeting the other Dads. It has to do with the fact that I don’t travel. Like, ever. The thought of having to figure out checking in at an airport and transferring planes makes me sick to my stomach. Then there’s the actual flying part of the trip… I am not the cling to the seat kind of flyer but that’s how I’ll feel inside for the entire trip.

All I can do to not think about the traveling is to think about what it’s going to be like when I get there. I have a seemingly cool roommate in Andy Herald from How To Be A Dad. Of course, he’s traveling with Honda on a 31 hour road trip, so he may not be the best smelling roommate upon arrival but I’m sure we’ll work it out. I’ve also heard that there may be some karaoke at some point and anyone who knows me, knows that I may have a slight case of weekend rockstar!

The other cool thing about this conference is that it will be my first opportunity to be featured as a speaker. No, seriously, it’s true. I’ve been asked to take part in the Dad 2.0 Blogger Spotlight feature, along with Whit Honea, Kevin McKeever, Black Hockey Jesus & Carter Gaddis. I know it sounds cliche but I am truly honoured to be included in a group with these guys and just to be speaking in general.

I also want to say a big Thank You to my friends at Parent Tested, Parent Approved for helping to sponsor my way to this conference. I wouldn’t have been able to go without their help and I will be forever grateful. This isn’t the last you’ll hear of them on this blog and I look forward to whatever the future has in store for us.

I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m anxious to meet the great people I interact with every day. I can’t wait to get there and I know it’s going to be a blast! So, although I may be quiet for the next few days, I am hoping to bring home a wealth of knowledge and connections that will keep me going for years to come! Here’s a cool Dad 2.0 video that was put together by Clay Nichols from the site, Dad Labs. If you are interested in following along on Twitter, I will be tweeting with the hashtag #Dad2Summit throughout the weekend. Cheers!