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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

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

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!

We Day Is Coming To Ottawa!

National We Day

When I was asked to attend the launch for National We Day, I really had no idea what to expect. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t really heard of We Day or the Free The Children organization but I was interested in finding out more, so I visited their official website and started to watch some of their videos. It only took about three videos before I began to swell up with emotion and inspiration and realized that this was an event that was going to change my life.

At the launch, I was lucky enough to meet Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger. In hearing his passion for what they are trying to accomplish, it was clear why this event has grown into the huge success that it is. Listening to the children speak about how this experience has changed them was especially moving and their passion to make the world a better place may or may not have caused a joyful tear or two.

One of the best parts of We Day is that you can’t buy a ticket. You have to earn your ticket through action. 1 Global and 1 Local action, to be exact. You can visit their Take Action page for more info on registering and volunteering.

So, I’m all in. How about you? I can’t think of anything better to do with my time than to teach our children how to be good to each other as we raise a new generation of young adults. I’ve included the list of speakers/performers for National We Day on April 29th, followed by the video that got me all choked up and inspired me to be a part of this movement. I hope you will take a few minutes to check out the website to see how you can take part and make a difference.

Martin Sheen – Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning actor and activist
Chief Shawn Atleo – National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
Kardinal Offishall – Canadian rapper and record producer
Karl Wolf – International recording artist, Socan& MTV Europe Music Award winner
Shawn Desman – Platinum-selling, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artist
Cast members from the hit TV show DEGRASSI
My Name is Kay – Canadian singer and songwriter
A performance by ONE DROP, a Cirque du Soleil Founder’s initiative
Frank O’Dea – Second Cup founder, Canadian entrepreneur, humanitarian and author
Neverest – Canadian pop-rock band
Jillian Vanstone – principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada
Rob Stewart – Award winning filmmaker of Sharkwater and Revolution
Tyler Shaw – 2012 Coca Cola COVERS MuchMusic Video Award winner
Molly Burke – Visually impaired Me to We motivational speaker
Spencer West – Me to We motivational speaker and Free The Children ambassador

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to find the answers for you. I really think this is going to affect a lot of people in a great way and I’m so happy that it is coming to the Ottawa area.

Could I look more awkward?? Still, awesome!

Could I look more awkward?? Still, awesome!

Community

Encouragement

I always believed that a community is simply a term to describe the area that you lived in. In my limited time in the blogging world, I have come to respect the fact that the word, community, means so much more than just a grouping of similarly coloured houses.

I decided to make a life change today. I decided that it was time for me to stop punishing my body with junk and a lack of exercise, in order to create a healthier version of me. Let’s call it Me 2.0. There were a handful of things that pushed me towards this decision today, none of which I will be discussing here. The point is that I got suddenly motivated and had no idea where to begin. I’ve had this sudden burst of motivation in the past and it always turned out the same; I would tell myself I was going to the gym but when the time came to actually do it, I would find any excuse to bail out. Then I would eat chips.

Today was different though. I innocently tweeted my intention to hit the gym for the first time in years and something funny happened. Encouragement. From complete strangers. There were no less than 10 tweets from people I have associated with online, each pushing me towards completing a goal I have failed to achieve so many times before. It was probably the single coolest thing that has happened to me on Twitter so far, and that includes the time Wil Wheaton scolded me.

And I did it, too. I took all the messages of encouragement, got my ass to the gym and it felt great! When I finished my workout, I sat and wondered why it took me so long to finally do this. It wasn’t that hard and it was made easier by the fact that I was reading the tweets coming in as I was doing it. Community. That’s what helped me get over the first hurdle in creating a better version of myself, for myself and my family. I shared all of those messages to illustrate my point and to my surprise, I received more messages from people who just needed to hear the encouragement, even if it wasn’t intended for them.

This new online community I have found is something that has started to transform my life. That might sound like an exaggeration but those who are willing participants in it will know exactly what I am talking about. It’s one of things where you absolutely get what you put into it and I have decided that I am all in. If a simple tweet of encouragement can make someone feel the way it did for me today, imagine the effect of 10 or 20 or 100 would have. It’s something to think about the next time you see someone innocently posting about a goal, hope or dream, while secretly looking for support.

Community is important. It’s what drives us to be better to each other. It’s what motivates and inspires us to do the things we didn’t believe we could do. I’m incredibly thankful for having found such a great community of people and can’t wait to pay forward all the kindness that has been given to me thus far. Thank You all.

What Do I Stand For?

Holding Hands

While discussing my new obsession with the band, “Fun” the other night, Candace Alper from Name Your Tune CD’s asked the following: “Can you answer the question, ‘What do I stand for?’” This was in reference to Fun’s song, Some Nights, where they continually ask this question. We both agreed that while we didn’t have an answer to the question, that it was definitely worth investigating.

So, here I am, still struggling to answer the question but willing to at least start the thought process here with you. I have decided to make a list of the things I stand for and will hopefully be adding future editions to the collection.

What Do I Stand For?

• I believe in being a gentleman. This includes but is not limited to, holding doors for people, being courteous, giving up my seat for women and elderly, treating others with respect.

• I try to make a difference in my community and beyond by giving back to those who are not as fortunate as I am. I have my problems too, we all do, but it’s not hard to set aside some time to help others and this is something I hope my children will carry with them.

Kindness always trumps hate.

• My family is my life. Everything else is secondary.

• I don’t have time for drama, nor will I participate in it.

• Pizza.

• Being a good father is more important to me than writing about being a good father. That being said, this blog has helped me become not only a better father, but a better human being as well.

• Smiling breeds happiness; Negativity breeds negativity. You choose.

• Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure. It just gives you the knowledge to get it right the next time.

• I make no apologies for who I am.

• I’ve made mistakes. Lots of them, actually, and while I have learned a lot from making these mistakes, they certainly do not define me.

• The word ‘retard‘ is not in my vocabulary. It was at one time but it is no longer.

• I do not tolerate bullying in any way, shape or form.

• I believe, perhaps gullibly, that I can make a difference in the world.

That’s all I wanted to share with you for now. It was a difficult exercise to not only think of these things but to also question whether they are things that I actively practice. The great part about making this list is that I am far more conscious of not only what I stand for, but also what steps I need to take in order to further back up the above statements. I highly recommend this exercise for all of you out there as well, whether you are a blogger or not, as it was very eye opening.

I leave you with the song that started the conversation and also with the question, “What do you stand for?”

On Sportsmanship And Teaching Your Children To Be Amazing Human Beings

Basketball Coach

It’s not often that a YouTube video causes me to burst into tears, but this one did it. I don’t know if it’s because it made me think about all the values my late father instilled in me or because it was exactly how I want my kids to turn out. I know this, for the senior in this video to have the awareness to do what he did, he has to have an incredibly kind heart.

I can only hope that I can teach my children to be as kindhearted and self aware as the boy in this video. I’m sure you’ve probably seen this video by now but I felt like it needed a little more airplay to help inspire us all to not only try to be better to each other but also to teach the next generation to do the same. We all have the ability to be amazing but I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of our potential yet!

I hope this video inspires you as much as it has me.