Monthly Archives: April 2010

Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy

“What the hell are you always doing on that computer?”

Ever since I started my blog and began dabbling in all the corresponding social media accoutrements, that phrase has escaped my wife’s lips on multiple occasions.

I don’t blame her. My wife, bless her heart, is largely ignorant of all things Internet so it’s not surprising for her to ask that question. In her mind I should just write my post, put it online and be done with it. So she’s always surprised to see me on the computer so much during the day, and at all hours of the night. I simply tell her I’m “doing stuff for the blog” and that has always sufficed. But today, for some reason, it wasn’t enough.

“There’s no way you’re spending all this time on the computer just for your blog,” she said. “Tell me what you do.”

So we sat down and I provided her a detailed account of what it’s like being an active blogger. I know some of you are old pros at this and I’m preaching to the choir, but if there’s anyone reading who’s thinking about starting his own site, please allow me to provide you a little insight into the amount of work necessary to even come close to succeeding.

Assuming you have your domain and you’ve set up your Web site (all things my brother Nate did for me), now it’s time to post some content. Some people make a point to post every single day. Others, like myself, spread it out over the week. Personally I only post if I feel I have something of substance to share with you all. I stay away from reviews, giveaways and I try never to bore you with recaps of my day. Content is king, and I work very hard to always make it interesting for my readers. So even though I may only post 2-3 times a week, rest assured I’m spending a lot of time crafting those entries.

But getting to the point where you can hit the “publish” button is just the beginning.

So you’ve written the world’s best blog entry. Congratulations. But if you don’t have any fans then it’ll be wasted on the three family members currently reading your blog. So you need a following. And the quickest way to do that, is via social media.

You need a Twitter account. Facebook is essential as well. Whatever your subject matter is, there’s surely a whole network of people who share the same interest. For some people it may be Transgendered Furries with Foot Fetishes. In my case, it’s parenting. So I would go to Twitter and Facebook and enter a series of search terms for dads, moms, parents, parenting, fathers, fatherhood, etc. You’ll soon find lots and lots of people who are currently talking about topics similar to the one you’re blogging about. So you add them as friends.

I call that planting the seed.

But as anyone with a green thumb knows, planting a seed is just the beginning. Then you need to water it and tend to it as it grows, in the hopes one day you can smoke it. In the blogging world, that means gathering Twitter friends and Facebook fans, and making sure every single one of your posts shows up on both places complete with a link back to your blog. Then you should join a core group of people and follow them and their work. And you can’t just do it half-assed either. You need to really pay attention to these people. You need to go to their sites and leave pertinent comments. You need to “re-tweet” their Twitter conversations to your audience, because they’ll do the same for you. Then you’ll start to appear on Twitter Lists so people can find you easier. Eventually, if you’re really into it and you do things the right way, you’ll begin to carve out your own niche as well as join a group of like-minded people who are all spreading the love around and giving each other more and more hits and unique visitors.

I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Just like in real life only at warp speed.

Eventually you fall in with Web sites such as Dad-Blogs and the Good Men Project, and maybe they’ll accept you as a contributor. Now you have your audience plus their platform as well. So now you’ve got your Web site, your Twitter account, your Facebook page and perhaps some contributing or guest blogging gigs at various sites. You’re hooked up and plugged in.

The only problem is you’re teetering on overload.

I have a full-time job, so I can’t do this stuff during the workday. I write early in the morning, late at night and on weekends. And, from time to time, I have to deal with a pesky 2-year-old and do the whole dad thing. So in my “spare time,” I need to catch up on a day’s worth of 330 Twitter friends, Facebook peeps, see what I missed at Dad-Blogs, comment to the comments people left on my own site and plan out some future content in the hopes of driving my hits up.

And you can’t ever stop. Because even a few days of inactivity will result in a precipitous drop in readership. Your Twitter followers will go down faster than Rosie O’Donnell on Ellen Degeneres. MJ wanted to know if I could totally disregard my blog and all that goes with it next month when we drive down to North Carolina for vacation. I told her absolutely not. Because in this age of instant gratification and a million and one voices all straining to be heard, you will be forgotten if you dilly-dally.

Not to mention, I’m completely and hopelessly addicted. Between my laptop and my Blackberry, I freak out if I’m not connected to the Internet somehow. At this point I have about a month to go before I’m mainlining coffee and sucking down cigarettes outside of a 12-step meeting for online junkies.

When all is said and done, I figure I spend 15-20 hours a week on my blog and related social media. Basically, it’s become a part-time job. Thankfully it seldom feels like work because I love it, and the people I’ve connected with are some truly talented and amusing motherfuckers. But if you really want your blog to stand out and have any shot at success, you need to REALLY work at it. It’s much more work than I ever anticipated, but that’s offset by the fact that it’s three times as rewarding.

How about you experienced bloggers and social media gurus? Any tips or anything to add?


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Barnyard Bitch

The donkeys were a big draw, for sure. The goats and the huge Scottish Highland Cattle weren’t too shabby either, but nothing could compare to the chickens.

We took Will to Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouthport over the weekend. It’s a small place with free admission, but they have some animals and it’s a nice open space where kids can run around. We’ve been there with Will before about a year ago, and you can read the account of that trip here if you want. But let’s just say it didn’t go so well. Fucking goats. I made sure I steered clear of them this time.

So anyway, Will seemed to forget all about his past troubles and was not shy about going right up to the animals. I was excited to see the donkeys. There were two of them, they were friendly and let’s face it, donkeys are amusing. And they made quite the “HEE-HAWWWWW!” racket while we there, much to everyone’s delight. I also liked the fact that the one ram on the farm has to be penned in solitary confinement because he’s so sexually aggressive. Seriously, they told us he’ll do anything to get laid, including kicking the crap out of the baby lambs. He even mounts the old sheep who can’t get pregnant anymore. I guess the caveman inside of me is mildly impressed with an animal whose sexual potency and prowess is so pronounced that no other animals can even go near him.

But I digress.

Will was not impressed by any of this. The only animals he cared about were the chickens, which was slightly depressing for me because chickens are boring and I find them weird. But he loved them, so I dutifully stood by him while he ooohed and ahhhed.

I will give him some credit, the farm has a vast majority of different kinds of chickens. I don’t know their exact species, but some had feathered feet while others had weird poofs of feathers on each side of their head. I didn’t like those ones. They struck me as snotty and elitist. But the main attraction in the chicken coop was definitely the rooster, who lived up to being the cock of the walk by pecking and bullying all the other chickens around him on a non-stop basis. It was wild. This rooster would come out into the pen and the rest of them would just scatter. None of them wanted any part of him.

Will seemed especially intrigued with him, and as he focused on the rooster it seemed to know he was being talked about because he made his way over. Will began saying “Hi Chicken!” and was waving at him. I crouched down to his level, grabbing onto the chain link fence for support with my left hand. Then I said “Will, what does the chicken say?”

And then that rooster motherfucker pecked at viciously mauled and nearly severed my finger!!

I jumped around, shaking my hand trying not to swear up a storm. I nursed my finger and just kept saying “Ow Ow Ow Ow!” over and over again, while dreaming of a Purdue oven stuffer roaster type of revenge. Will just laughed at me, and so did MJ.

What a supportive family I have.

The next day, we were reading one of Will’s favorite books which consists of a list of animals. We point to an animal, he names it and then makes the corresponding sound. We did horse. We did dog. We did sheep. And then…I pointed to the picture of a chicken.

And instead of the ultra-cute chicken noise he usually makes — which comes complete with him jutting his elbows out and making a flapping gesture with his arms — he surprised us by incorporating something else into his repertoire.

He looked at me, grinned, and then started jumping up and down while shaking his hand and shouting “Ow Ow Ow, finger hurt, finger hurt!”

Little prick.

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I live in a condo and that means neighbors are in close proximity. Some of them are great. Others? Well, just refer to the title of this post.

I had a run-in recently with one of the neighbors who falls in the latter category, and I’ve just had it with him. I just want to ignore him in all of his white trash glory and pretend he doesn’t exist. But for some reason he still wants to feign civility and say hello to each other. I have no interest in such things.

So I was walking my dog yesterday and I spotted him walking up ahead. There’s no way to avoid him, so I did what all the passive aggressive kids are doing these days: I whipped out my cell phone and pretended to be talking to someone to avoid a conversation with him. It worked and when I got out of earshot I hung up the phone and continued walking my dog. But unfortunately, our condo complex is one big circle. And when I got back around, he was still there.

Cursing him under my breath, I grabbed my cell phone again and faked a phone call. Amazingly, this didn’t stop him from saying hello and asking me how I was. Take a hint pal.

I simply pointed at my cell and mouthed the words “On the phone” to him and kept walking. I smiled to myself and was silently thankful for the advent of the cell phone which allowed me not to have yet another asinine conversation with this joker. But I was only a few steps past the guy when disaster struck.

As I had held the cell phone up to my ear and faked a conversation with an imaginary person on the other end of the line, my phone rang. Loudly.

As I hurriedly walked up the path to my house feeling more than a little sheepish, I heard white trash laughing and I swore he threw out a “douchebag” comment in my direction. Stupid cell phones. Why isn’t there an app for faking phone calls to avoid conversations with shitty neighbors??

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What Kind of Dad Am I?

The red wagon cruises clumsily through the neighborhood with a blonde-haired boy in tow. All of the sand used to battle winter’s icy roads has collected in small islands on the street, creating a harsh sandpaper effect when sandwiched between the hard plastic wheels and the concrete road. The goofy golden retriever with her tongue hanging out to one side trots happily ahead of the fracas, her tags jingling and announcing our presence wherever we go.

Such is my evening stroll, a nightly ritual now that the warmer weather is here.

The 10-minute walk is the highlight of my day. Work is done, I haven’t started cooking dinner yet, the boy is happy because he’s getting a free ride in his new wagon and the dog is thrilled because, well…she’s a dumbass golden retriever who thinks every person, animal and shiny object she sees is the most exciting goddamn thing the universe has ever produced.

So with a wagon handle in one hand and a leash in the other, I take my .4-mile stroll of zen. Well, actually the zen is often interrupted by picking up piles of my dog’s crap. But I’ll take my zen wherever I can get it. And yesterday, I used that time to reflect on what kind of a dad I am now, and will be in the future.

I’m not sure about all the other fathers out there, but I’m constantly judging myself. And I worry that I’m not doing enough, or that I’m not doing it right. I read about better, more successful and seemingly more devoted dads out there on a daily basis and I’m petrified that I don’t measure up. First off, I don’t stay at home with my son so right off the bat I’m behind in the game. Second, I’m not the breadwinner in my family. Sure I work full time, but for peanuts. My wife brings home the bacon. I pay someone else to watch my son during the day and I don’t provide very well for him financially.

So what the hell is my purpose?

My thoughts were interrupted by a ringing phone. I stopped pulling the wagon for a minute to reach into my pocket and answer. It was MJ. We talked about what she wanted me to cook for dinner and asked how Will did at daycare. I told her chicken, and he did OK. He’s still emotional about sharing and other kids getting attention from our daycare provider, but she and I have agreed on a system where Will has to earn things like outside time and one-on-one time with good behavior. Will started yelling at that point, and MJ couldn’t understand what he was saying. I translated and told her he was shouting for crackers, so I had to go to feed him.

I grabbed the wagon and got things moving again just as we came to the steep hill leading back up to our condo. The dog immediately shot up the hill toward the house (and her dinner) as I strained to rein her in with my right hand. Meanwhile my left arm was completely stretched out in the other direction dragging the wagon up the hill.

I trudged slowly up the incline trying to keep dog and child/wagon in check. With a secure hold on both of them, I inched my way home. Slowly but surely. A little bit at a time.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’m not much to look at. I’m not flashy. I make no money and I’m not a domestic god. But what I am, is dependable. I may not get there in a hurry, but I will get there. Inch by inch, little by little, I make slow but determined progress. I’m like that old station wagon that had a bunch of dings and one of the windows didn’t roll down, but you loved it because it hardly ever broke down. And while it never flew along the highway at breakneck speed, maybe that’s a good thing. Because you all piled in, went on vacations, savored the good times and got there safely.

So I realized I’m an old, rusted beater. Yet somehow I’m very OK with that. Because I am the one who communicates with our daycare provider about what’s best for Will. I’m the one who dresses him in the morning and feeds him at night. I’m the one who translates his babble into English for my wife when she doesn’t understand. Could I do all that if I worked 70 hours a week and made $250,000 a year? Could I really pay attention to the minutiae of toddlerhood, with all of the miniscule yet profound changes that happen on a daily basis? I don’t know. But those are the Ferraris. A better car for sure, but I imagine it’s pretty difficult to catch a glimpse of what’s going on outside when you’re driving that fast.

So I’ll happily be the guy in the clunker, waving as others fly by while enjoying a pit stop with my family on the side of the highway. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up eventually.


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Father-Son Farting

My dad and I went to the Boston Garden last night to watch the Celtics kick the holy hell out of the Miami Heat, while Will stayed with my mom and fell asleep at their house. I didn’t get back to pick him up until 12:30 a.m., at which point I had to wake the poor kid up and put him in the carseat for our ride home. He was really good about it, and fell back asleep for the majority of the 45-minute ride back to the Cape.

When we got home I grabbed him out of the carseat once again, at which point he got a little fussy. I don’t blame him, I woke him up out of a dead sleep twice and brought him out in the chilly weather. So as I’m carrying him up the walk to our front door through the early morning darkness, Will turns to face me suddenly and says “DADA!!”

And then he ripped not one, not two, but three extremely intense farts.

These were LOUD. Maybe they were just amplified by the stillness and dead quiet of the wee morning, but all I know is he farted right on my arm and the vibrations carried all the way to my feet. If any seismologists want to know what that slight tremor was at 1:10 a.m. in the area of Bourne, Massachusetts, fear not. It was merely my son displaying his staggering gastrointestinal capabilities.

But the best part was the aftermath.

After he farted, I was flat out impressed. Seriously, it was that good. So he farts, and then there’s this three second pause where I look at him incredulously and he looks at me as if to say “Whoa…did I just do that?” So we’re staring at each other, and then at the exact same time we both start laughing hysterically. Giggling like little kids, which is cool for him and possibly pathetic for me that I still find farts this funny at 30 years old. Then we high-fived.

I excitedly told MJ about this because I thought it was damned hilarious, but she just thought we were disgusting and ridiculous. Whatever, she just doesn’t get it. Some things are solely meant to be between a father and a son.

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