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On Comfort Zones, Inspiration and Being Vulnerable {#Dad2Summit}

Floating on Air

It’s a constant struggle for me to turn my thoughts and my passions into typed words. Case and point, I am trying to do justice to the experience that was the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas, yet I know that the finished product of this summation will be nowhere close to what I actually want to say.

Much like my trip to Blissdom Canada last October, I came into this conference with a fear wrenched stomach. The difference this time around was that these were my direct peers in that we are all occupying the space in the fatherhood advocacy industry. We write about fatherhood with the knowledge that there is still a limited market for what we do, which means that in order to get your message viewed you have to stand out from the crowd; or write like Black Hockey Jesus

The Dad 2.0 conference, for me, was about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing the exact opposite of what my brain was telling me to do. It was forgetting about idolizing people and realizing that we’re all just people. It was tackling my fear of flying. It was about not holding back the personality I tend to subdue and letting people see the real me. And yes, that crazy dancing, high fiving and ear to ear smiling maniac that a few of you saw at back to back karaoke nights was very much the real me. Special shout out to Amy Spreitzer Windsor of the Bitchin’ Wives Club for organizing those nights out. You can check out her amazing Karaoke montage right here!

I took so much out of this conference that I’m still processing and remembering things days after they happened. I had real conversations with people and I’m not talking about the average “being a Dad is kind of neat talks” either. I had meaningful conversations about people’s passions, kids, cancer, death, writing and relationships. Every single person’s story was unique and amazing and interesting. There were no ego’s, no competing and people were more than willing to engage in conversation, regardless of how many followers they had on their websites and social media accounts. It was awesome.

I had the special opportunity to stand before my peers and read to them something so personal to me, that I wasn’t sure I would be able to get all the way through it. Well, I got up there and I got through it; and then I went immediately to my room and I cried for what felt like hours, even though it was only a minute or two. I wasn’t ready to be completely vulnerable in front of everybody. I think I am now.

I think I accomplished almost everything I set out to do by attending this conference. The only regret that I can think of is that I didn’t take more time to sit down with Jim Higley, who I didn’t know much about going into the conference. I’ve come to realize that he is one of those rare people who inspires us to be better people to each other. He further exemplified this by telling that group that his $3,000 1st place prize from the Ready, Set, Eat competition, would be going to help a young boy with testicular cancer. I didn’t get a chance to tell him that he inspired me in person, so I’ll do it here.

I have a million Thank You’s to hand out but I’ll save a lot of them for emails because I’m sure you’ve either stopped reading this already or are getting close to it. That said, there are a couple people I would like to mention.

* To my roommate, Andy Herald of How To Be A Dad. If I bothered you with my incessant questions, messy side of the room or general hovering, you didn’t show it even one time. Thank you for being open with your thoughts and ideas. I got a lot out of our conversations and appreciate you taking that time with me.

* To my Blogger Spotlight co-readers: Whit Honea, Carter Gaddis, Jon Hockey Jesus & Kevin McKeever. It was an honour to share the stage with you and listen to your stories. Through this exercise I learned that I don’t have to write like other people in order to be successful. Just because someone’s writing is great, doesn’t mean that mine can’t also be great in its own way.

* To the brand sponsors, who are proving that they believe in the voice we are developing as fathers and as men. And to title sponsor, Dove Men+ Care for everything they provided to make this conference the huge success it was. Thank you for everything!

* A very big Thank You to Sharon, Zeev and the rest of the staff at Parent Tested, Parent Approved for sponsoring me on this amazing journey. Without your help, I would have never had the chance to experience it and I am eternally grateful for it. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as partners and hope I did your brand proud.

* Last but not least, to Doug French, John Pacini and every other person that put their sweat and tears into this project, Thank You. I had the time of my life and that is not just lip service.

I got on the plane to come home and as I started writing this, I began to cry and had to stop. Every time I started trying to write again, I started to cry again. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m just tired. It certainly can’t be that I got emotionally charged and inspired by a bunch of dudes, right? I really miss my family and the only thing I want at this very moment is to be home with them. PS – After typing that last line, I put the computer away so my seat mates didn’t think I was unstable.

In the end, I laughed, cried, sang, spoke and even danced on a pole (for the first time, I swear). I left everything on the table, had few regrets, made many new friends and leave as a different man, who is more energized and inspired than ever. Thank you to everyone who took the time to get to know me and who made this the incredible event it was. I hope I represented myself and my country in a positive light and I’m already planning to do it all over again next year!

I’ll leave you with my interview with Brad from DadLabs, which was a lot of fun to do. Cheers!.


Video streaming by Ustream

And Now An Inspirational Message From The Kid President {#AwesomeYear}

Kid Pres

When I saw Scott Stratten from UnMarketing post this video on his Facebook page with the headline, “Simply put, this is the greatest video in the world”, I was simply going to watch it once and move on. After watching the video three times in a row, I realized two things. 1 – Scott Stratten is no liar; and 2 – It was so great that I needed to share it here with all of you.

This video comes from the people at Soul Pancake and features a message from their Kid President, who may be the cutest Kid President you will ever see. His message is funny but real and for a kid, his timing is perfect. Check out his awesome Pep Talk below and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Now get off your couch, get out in the world and start doing something awesome! You are the only one stopping yourself from it. Why are you even still reading this??? GO!!

Canadian Spotlight – Todd Churchill’s Charity Rink Of Dreams For Carter

Todd Churchill Rink for Carter

I came across this story on the CBC website and it was too amazing to not write about. Todd Churchill lives in Portugal Cove – St. Philips, NL with his wife Kimberly and their two sons Hunter and Carter. His youngest son, Carter, was diagnosed as profoundly deaf in December 2011 and then subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy in January 2012.

Since that time, Todd and his wife Kimberly have become very active in various fundraising efforts for local charities and non-profit organizations associated with or helping with their son Carter’s condition. This past July, they both participated in Easter Seals’ Drop Zone event in St. John’s and personally raised over $8,000 dollars.

Todd then decided that the logical next step would be to build an outdoor rink. This, however, was not just going to be any outdoor rink. Todd had a dream of designing and building a 95’ x 46’ outdoor ice hockey rink in his backyard, complete with boards, painted lines, nets, lighting, etc. His goal was to sell ad space on the boards and also on the ice surface, just like an NHL rink, with the proceeds going to support the three charities that have helped and continue to help his family the most. Those charities are:

1. The Easter Seals of Newfoundland & Labrador
2. Rainbow Riders
3. Mazol Shriners

I’ve included links to the donation pages of all three in case you are compelled to contribute. Todd’s got a website all set up that lists all the amazing sponsors, supporters and news about the rink and his family’s charitable efforts. The website is called Reason For The Rink and I hope you’ll stop in to check it out. I was also fortunate enough to interview Todd for this feature and here is what he had to say.

CD: Where did you get the idea to do this? It’s quite brilliant!

Todd: I received a photo of a similar, albeit smaller, rink done out in western Canada and I always wanted to do one as a personal challenge being an engineer. When my son was born and was diagnosed as deaf and with CP, my wife and I became very proactive in organizations dedicated to assisting children like Carter, namely Easter Seals NL, Rainbow Riders and Mazol Shriners. We both participated in the Easter Seals NL Drop Zone event (9 storey rappel) in July, personally raising over $8,000. As a result, I was invited to participate in the Easter Seals Toronto Drop Zone (17 storey’s). There are links to videos of both events on my website under “Other Fundraising Efforts“. My wife has a small home business called Carter’s Cupcakes, which makes cakes and cupcakes with 25% of the profits going to children’s charities associated with Carter. I started my rink as both a fundraiser and a way of increasing awareness of these organizations which I myself had no awareness of prior to Carter being born.

CD: Was the rink a community project or more of a solo effort?

Todd: It was a solo project that I started planning last winter but actually physically started in June building a prototype corner and straight section to work the bugs out of my design.

CD: Now that the rink is built, what are your goals for it? Will there be more fundraising or is it a community rink?

Todd: I am going to have to some fundraisers for people at work. I am currently working on the Hebron project here in NL so I am going to have a hockey tournament for employees of the major companies, ie. ExxonMobil, WorleyParsons, KCAD and Kiewit-Kvaerner Contractors. I have also been receiving a lot of offers to rent ice time with proceeds going to charity.

CD: How difficult was it to sell the ad space?

Todd: It was slow going at first as companies didn’t really know what to make of what I was doing. Some companies jumped right on board, while others needed some convincing and others never responded at all. After I launched my website, I had more demand than available spaces so City Honda here in St. John’s offered $1,000 for an in ice ad, which is something I never considered before. I was only going to have the charity logos in the ice, but I could not turn down that type of donation. Provincial Airlines, ExxonMobil (Hebron Project) and Ranstar* soon followed and took the remaining three in ice logos for $1000 as well. I have now raised over $16,700 to date.

Rink BoardsRink DrawingRink Frame

 

 

 

 

 

This was such a great story and I was so glad to be able to speak with Todd about it. For more information about Todd’s charity rink or on how you can donate, you can visit his website, Reason For The Rink, and you can follow him on Twitter @Reason4TheRink.

I wanted to leave you with one last look at the finished product. Admittedly, this photo makes me want to hop on a plane and fly out to Newfoundland to take a lap on the ice. So, if anyone has an extra plane ticket to Newfoundland… Yeah, didn’t think so! I want to thank Todd Churchill for the interview and also for being an Awesome Dad and human being, along with his entire family. Keep up the great work!

Churchill Rink Night

Cheers!

In Lieu Of A “Year In Review” Post

Kindness Video

I saw this video shared on Candace from Life In Pleasantville‘s Facebook Page and I am hesitant to admit that it caused a strange liquid to form around the corners of my eyes. I was going to write a long, drawn out “Year In Review” post, filled with my goals and hopes for my blog but this video said everything I want out of myself, better than I could.

I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and I want to say Thank You for making my first year of blogging a memorable one. You have all been so kind to me and it has made me want to be a better father and person in general. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did. All I know about it is that the song is “Give A Little Love” by Noah and the Whale, and the message is amazing!

Cheers!

Bullied Boy Fights Back With Kindness

Holding Doors

I caught this story on The National the other day and thought it was worth another share. Check out what happened when Clarke Road SS student, Josh “The Doorman” Yandt, started holding doors open for his school mates. I realize that this isn’t the answer for all bullied children, but it’s definitely a cool story in this instance.

The best part about this story is that it carries a message we can all learn from. Kindness breeds kindness. If we all go out of our way to do something nice for someone else, even once a day, we can create a better community to be a part of. Rock on, Josh!

Restoring My Faith In Humanity

Tim Hortons

I’m not sure, in my lifetime, that I have felt as emotionally drained as I do right now. Between family illnesses, lack of sleep and what happened in Connecticut last week, I haven’t been able to find a lot of room for happy thoughts. Just as I began to sink into hibernation, I received an email from the PR department at Tim Hortons.

The last thing I was looking for was to start working on a new project. My plate was already pretty full and I have to keep reminding myself that blogging is a hobby and not my real job. Before I opened the email, I had already located my standard, copy and paste, “Thanks but I can’t accept any new projects at this time” response. Luckily, I read the email because what they were proposing was the exact thing I needed at that very moment.

They were offering to send me 50 – $5 gift cards for their Random Cups of Kindness promotion, that I was allowed to hand out to whoever I saw fit. I accepted immediately and waited with anticipation for the cards to arrive. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to distribute the cards and as it turns out, the experience was a lot more uplifting than I could have imagined.

I began my adventure by leaving two cards at the Tim Hortons drive-thru, for the next two cars in line. The person at the window looked at me like I was nuts but by the end of the week; they were expecting me and knew the drill. I never saw any of the recipients of the gift cards but I was encouraged by how happy it made the employees inside the store. I was determined to not let my pneumonia slow down my mission and soldiered on. I surprised parents and teachers at my son’s school. I visited a couple stores that I constantly get excellent customer service from and surprised them with special gifts. I handed them out to people who looked like they hadn’t smiled in a long time and I even gave one to Santa Claus at the mall, because, well, Santa needs love too!

Just watching the smiles on people’s faces as I handed them the cards would have been enough for me to enjoy the experience, but hearing comments like “I really needed this” and “You really have made my day”, pushed the experience over the top. Oddly enough, my favourite part of the campaign came when my daughter fell and cut her mouth, which sent us to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Don’t worry, she is fine and didn’t require any stitches, but it gave me the chance to hand out gift cards to parents of sick kids and also to some of the wonderful staff at CHEO. This was the point where I really started getting emotional about what I had been fortunate enough to be a part of.

It might sound silly and exaggerated, and I’ll never be able to accurately capture my feelings in words but this experience has really changed me. It’s changed the way I interpret what is important in my life versus what is unnecessary extras. Giving is important. Making people smile is important. Helping others is important and family is the most important of them all. Money and feuds and impatience and anger are not important, they are just distractions from what we should really be focusing on.

I realize that Tim Hortons’ “Random Cups of Kindness” was a marketing campaign designed to create a buzz for the brand, but whether they realized it or not, they have touched some people’s lives at a time when it was most important to do so. There was no compensation for this campaign, nor was any expected. I wasn’t required to write, tweet, speak or do anything else but hand out the cards and bring smiles to people’s faces, which I gladly did.

I want to say Thank You to Tim Hortons for including me in this amazing promotion and for restoring my faith in the good things that people are capable of doing for each other. They were only $5 gift cards but I am a different person for having done it. If more big companies did what you have just done, the world would be a better place, even if only a little bit better.

Happy Holidays Everyone! I am wishing nothing but the best for all of you in the New Year!

Chris

Here’s A Double Shot Of Business Awesome!

I’ve always appreciated excellent service and ethical, client centered business practices. That said, it wasn’t until I went to one of the presentations for Scott Stratten’s, “Book of Business Awesome”, that I truly understood the value of sharing some of the everyday, cool things that some businesses do for us, as consumers. I want to share one of those stories today.

While wasting my life away doing blog research on Facebook recently, I noticed a status update from my friends at Mabel’s Labels. It was a letter from one of their customers, that read as follows:

“Dear Mabel, Last week my car got broken into. Sadly our GPS and my son’s hockey bag were taken. I was sad to tell my son about it. It takes a lot of time effort and money to gather all the items for hockey equipment. My husband and my son decided to go to a second hand store called Play it Again Sports to find some new equipment. When my son tried on a neck guard, what does he see: Yes! his name on it with your label. He points this out to the store owner and tells him the story of the loss. They were able to find all his equipment and they returned it without charge. To top it all off, the store owner caught the thief on his video camera, gave us a copy and we were able to give it to the police.”

Pretty awesome, right? I realize that by returning the boy’s equipment, “free of charge”, the owner did the right thing and probably what was expected of him, but this is where I get to add an extra dash of awesome to the story. You see, I help run a charity called, The Gil Read Memorial Foundation, named after my father. Our goal is to provide monetary assistance to children who can’t afford to compete in sports. This includes equipment, registration and other costs associated with playing a sport.

When I approached Play It Again Sports about becoming our official supplier of sports equipment for the charity, not only did they agree immediately but they also offered a generous discount to all the families we sent in. I can’t say enough good things about this company and the people they have working there. On top of all of that, their Regional Manager, Rob Lavoie, was an integral member of our Movember team that helped raise over $12,400 this past month.

Keep up the excellent work, guys! You make our community a better place to live and I appreciate it! I’d also like to thank the awesome people at Mabel’s Labels for sharing this story. It’s nice to read about the positive, inspirational stuff every now and then. Plus, you know, your labels are awesome and clearly help catch criminals!

Cheers!

12,474 Reasons Why This Was A Movember To Remember!

Every once in a while, something happens that inspires you and reminds you that there is still a lot of good left in the world. Usually it comes in the form of a random act of kindness or something you would see on Ellen. That occurrence, for me at least, happened with my participation in the most recent Movember campaign.

When I decided to put a Movember team together, I thought it would be a fun way to get together with a bunch of friends, to grow our crazy moustaches and to raise awareness and a little bit of money for the cause. The original goal of $2,000 seemed lofty at the time, especially considering the state of the economy and the sheer number of causes out there around the Christmas season.

The series of events that followed completely changed the way I look at a lot of things. Not only did we smash our $2,000 goal before we even started growing the moustaches, but I was inspired by the willingness of the participants to want to make a difference. I quickly realized that this wasn’t about the moustaches. It was about supporting something that we believed in, that we as men are affected by, on a daily basis.

I saw people going the extra mile to make that difference. From selling personalized short stories and MoTies to giving away awesome Movember gear and sharing some very personal stories, this group of guys (and one MoSista) continued to surprise me at every turn. I’ve been a part of a lot of fundraising campaigns and had never seen a dedication like this.

Then there were the donors. It seemed like every time I mentioned that we were close to a milestone, someone would swoop in and proudly declare that they wanted to be the ones to get us there. Most of the time these were people that I had never met and had only interacted with a couple of times on social media. To these people, I say a huge heartfelt Thank You!

We even had corporate donors. They owed me nothing and I have little to offer in return, yet they still offered what they could to help support our journey. Whether it was a cash donation or products to give away at our closing party, I am endlessly grateful for their contributions and will not be forgetting it anytime soon. I want to give a shout out to those companies and hope they know how much we appreciate them. They are:

PlaSmart, Logs End Inc, Burnbrae Farms, Tag Along Toys, Elm Hill Kids, Play It Again Sports, Cloak and Curio, Fathead, Adult Essentials, Sarah J’s Cupcakes, Parent Tested Parent Approved & The Short and Sweet Kitchen.

If you are looking to buy from and work with good people, these are some of those very good people and I highly recommend all of them!

In closing, I really just want to say Thank You to everyone who had a part in helping us raise $12,474! It took me awhile to realize that this was actually a big deal and if you had said that we’d raise that total at the start, I would have laughed pretty hard. I’m very proud to have been a member of this team. It has inspired me and opened my eyes to what is possible when you put in the work.

I leave you with one of the coolest things I saw this Movember. Here is the MoCake that was made for our closing party, by Andrea from The Short & Sweet Kitchen. Pure Awesomeness!

Who’s The Best? The Company That Made These Coffee Lids, That’s Who!

I got to spend some Daddy time with the kids this week and we decided to go to our favourite local coffee shop, the Sippy Cup Cafe, to hang out. This particular shop is cool because one half is a fancier coffee shop and the other is a children’s play area. The kids love it and the staff and owner are great, so it’s a win-win for us.

This week, there was something different about the coffee cup lids. The employees had handwritten different positive messages on every single coffee lid and while it took me a few minutes to fully appreciate it, I really liked the small touch and good vibe it added to my day. As you can see above, my cup was obviously a “meant to be” situation.

It’s tough for small shops like this to differentiate themselves, but these guys impressed me on this day by offering something that the others don’t; a personal touch. It just goes to show that you don’t always have to break the bank to impress people. Sometimes, just adding a laugh to someone’s day is enough.

Keep Up The Great Work, Sippy Cup Cafe!

Cheers!

I Saw A Million Faces; Well, You Know The Rest! #BlissDomCA

Where do you even start in formulating a proper recap of the weekend that was Blissdom Canada? I could write about all the great people I met, but listing only a few would be unfair and listing them all would be way too much! I want to write about the experience but speaking about the experience would pay it far more justice. That way, you could see my smile and my arms flailing wildly as I describe each session, interaction and excursion.

That still brings me back to my original question, “How do I accurately describe my time at Blissdom Canada?”

I guess I’ll start from the top. Being of the male persuasion, the thought of heading to a 500 person conference, where the ratio of women to men is 490:10, was a little overwhelming. Nightmarish thoughts of walking into the room and everyone glaring at me with disapproving eyes, filled my head in the days leading up to the event.

Once I arrived on site, it took about 30 seconds for those fears to disappear. That’s because 30 seconds is all it took for me to get my first warm welcome. The next one came at 45 seconds; and then at 60 seconds, it happened again. In fact, every single interaction I had the entire weekend was positive and welcoming.

Not one time did I feel out of place, as a blogger or as a man. I got nervous; and anxious; and overwhelmed at times, but that wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going to go up to someone you idolize, than it is to actually do it. I was lucky to have some people watching out for me and making sure that I felt included in the fun and for that I am eternally grateful.

I went to Blissdom Canada to learn how to become a better blogger but I left with so much more than that. I left with a sense of belonging. I left with great connections. I left with a new found confidence in my abilities as a writer. Most importantly, I left with new friends. Not “friends” in the Facebook sense either, but real friends who are willing to help you when you have questions and who genuinely want to see you do well, as I do for them.

I could write a book about how fulfilling this conference was. I won’t, but I could! I sang, I learned, I laughed, I cried (Let’s not get into that, I am a man after all and I was watching a family video), I gangnam styled, I interpretive danced (see above), I connected, At Blissdom Canada, I saw a million faces…

And I rocked them all!

Thank you so much to the organizers, community leaders, sponsors and attendees. You made this experience one I will never forget and I am going to make it my goal to let the other male bloggers know that this is a conference that will accept them for who they are and not judge them based on their gender.

I’d also like to say a special Thank You to my wife, who was nothing but supportive of my time away and never made me feel like I was doing something wrong by being there. She is a great woman and my family is incredibly lucky to have her!

Cheers!

Oh yeah, I also got to spend an afternoon with Canadian Family Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief, Jennifer Reynolds. It was incredibly rewarding!