Tag Archives: blogging

Life in Slow “Mo”: My Secret Shame

Day 1

If I had to pinpoint the worst period of my life, I’d say it was 9th grade.

Freshman year of high school is tough on nearly every kid, but for me it was just terrible. You see, there are two camps of boys at that age: the ones who have started to become men and the late bloomers. And I was late. Way late. Some of the other kids were growing tall and sprouting body hair. I remember Shane Macauley had a full beard in the eighth grade. I shit you not. His leg hair had split ends and at 14 he had 5 o’clock shadow before lunch.

I, on the other hand, was 5’2″ and baby-faced as can be. Like a hairless cat. The girls who were shaving their legs already had nothing on my silky smooth skin. It was horrendous. And I swore that one day, when I got older and puberty kicked in, I’d grow the mother of all beards and a handlebar mustache just to shut up all the little assholes who were teasing me.

Unfortunately, that was not in the genetic cards.

Puberty came but the beard never really did. And the mustache? Even worse. To this day I only have to shave once a week, and even when it does grow in it’s—weird. Reddish-blond stubble comes in patches, but not consistently at all. There are parts of my face where hair just simply refuses to grow. And I use the word “grow” loosely because it comes in at a snail’s pace. Seriously, old people have sex faster than my facial hair grows. It’s humiliating and that’s why I avoid all talk of goatees, beards and mustaches at all costs.

So why am I spending the month of November growing a mustache?

Despite my protests and attempts to weasel out of it, a fantastic (and persistent) group of dad bloggers convinced me to join their

Day 17. Not so different than Day 1.

Movember team. What is Movember, you ask? It’s a movement aimed at bringing awareness and much-needed funds to the issue of men’s health, specifically prostate cancer. So to that end, men from all walks of life come together and get people to sponsor them while they grow their mustaches to ridiculous lengths and fashions for the entire month of November.

But here’s my problem: It’s Day 17 and I look like a pubescent high school kid who just made out with a cat. Seriously. Look at that picture. Can you believe that’s 17 days of not shaving my upper lip?

The worst part is the hair is starting to get kind of thick on the sides near the corners of my mouth, but I don’t have ANYTHING growing in the middle. I mean nothing. It’s like having two pathetic midget mustache strips growing on each side of my face struggling in vain to get to one another, but it’s a journey that will never be completed.

So I’m asking for your pity. If you have some extra money and want to give to a good cause, I’m begging you to sponsor me. Before you donate by clicking here, I want you to check out some of the other guys on my team. They have awesome mustaches. Thick, full, manly food catchers that make them look like porn stars or highway patrolmen. Or porn stars acting as highway patrolmen. Either way, they look sweet and I’m left to wallow in my hairless, deflated masculinity. My only shot at any kind of redemption is raising enough money to preserve what little dignity I have left.

Seriously though guys, it’s a great cause. There’s a lot of attention given to breast cancer and other medical maladies, and rightly so. But men, and specifically prostate cancer, get a miniscule amount of coverage and awareness is nil. If you’re able, I’d really appreciate you helping to change that.

And in return, I’ll keep posting humiliating pictures of my pathetic facial hair. Which is also starting to itch like a bastard I might add. I have two more weeks of patchy awfulness causing strange glances from coworkers, my bosses and clients. I’m sacrificing my dignity for the sake of charity. That’s gotta be worth a couple of bucks right?

Thanks everyone!

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Babble Lists & Why We Blog

Last week, the popular mom parenting website Babble put out one of their patented Top 50 lists. But in a surprising twist, the Babble editors gave a rare tip of the cap to fathers and came out with their Top 50 Dad Blogs of 2011. And look who’s hanging on by a thread at #50.

First of all, I want to say thank you to the Babble editors. All snarkiness aside, I really am honored they decided my blog was worthy of inclusion on the list. If you click on the other guys you’ll see I’m in some pretty amazing company, something that is not lost on me. And the fact that this list appears to have been put together by real people doing actual research as opposed to the linkbait, online popularity contests is very refreshing.

But when you wade into a community and start anointing some and not others, there are bound to be hurt feelings and sour grapes.

First of all some guys were upset they didn’t make it. Well, they didn’t come right out and say they were hurt by being left off the list. It came out as “These lists are stupid” and “This is nothing but a popularity contest.” Then people wrote lengthy posts about how they’ve been at this for longer than half the people on Babble’s list and how the lack of inclusion on some list should never impact your sense of self-worth. Because the fastest way to show people you don’t care about being left off the list is obviously to write a post devoted solely to the same subject.

Sorry, but I call bullshit.

Look, if you truly started a dad blog simply because you wanted to keep a record of life with a child then fine. But frankly, I think most people who say this are completely and utterly full of shit. Most writers crave recognition, positive feedback and affirmation. We want comments from people who are moved by us, thousands upon thousands of people clicking our respective “Like” buttons and countless followers on Twitter. And in that vein, we like it when we’re recognized by established sites that increase our exposure.

Why are we all so afraid to admit this? Because people will think we’re shallow? Newsflash: parent bloggers spend many, many hours writing about ourselves on a non-stop basis. Some do it better than others and appeal to a broader audience, but in the end what we do is shallow and self-absorbed. And seeking validation is not something about which I’m ashamed. I work hard on this blog and my writing. So when that hard work is recognized, you’re damn right I’m happy. And when it’s not, I’m pissed.

Case in point, Backpacking Dad made up a list of the Top 25 Sexiest Dad Bloggers. It was a completely random list based on Shawn’s warped sense of humor. It has little to no meaning and was obviously meant to elicit a few laughs. And I was kinda pissed I wasn’t on it.

But the controversy about the dad blogger list was not relegated to the ranks of men.

CecilyK, a Babble mom blogger, wrote a post that not only concerned the release of the list, but griped about dads griping about the list. Then, she dropped this on us:

I also find it fairly ironic (and somewhat irritating) that dad bloggers
are insisting that they be awarded the same attention, accolades and respect that
mom bloggers get –- which, hilariously, is actually very little.
You’ll forgive my cynicism; I was just reminded that women will make
two million dollars LESS in their lifetimes than their male colleagues,
so I’m having a lot of trouble with dads feeling left out of much of anything.

Yeah. Equality is a totally unreasonable request. Especially considering most women are constantly calling for fathers to be MORE involved, so naturally it’s a good idea to essentially tell dads to quit their bitching when they do just that. And launching into the completely unrelated wage gap issue was equal parts confusing and annoying.

(I should note Cecily K wrote this follow-up post in which she interviewed Jason Avant which was nice to see)

Then there was this piece which wasn’t so bad in and of itself, but spawned a comment which had me seeing red. A commenter named Kim wrote:

Can’t you let us have *anything*, men?
Why is it necessary for men to have equality
in mom-blogging? It’s MOM-BLOGGING.

Wow. I mean…wow! She actually asked why men need equality when it comes to writing about being a parent. And she called that writing “Mom-blogging.” As if anyone who writes about his/her children is automatically a “mom blogger.” Which supports the very real and misguided notion that real parents are moms, and dads are an afterthought.

I wonder how Kim would feel if I said “Why is it necessary for women to have equality in the board room? After all, it’s BUSINESS and the work world belongs to men.” I’m betting that one would go over about as well as, ummm—about as well as a dad invading mommy parenting turf.

I’m just sick of it all. I’m sick of some dad writers pretending they don’t care about recognition. Yes, we all enjoy the brotherhood and support of being in a great online network. That’s certainly been a spectacular byproduct of blogging. But the sooner you’re honest with yourself and admit you’re in this for more than just the “love of the game,” the sooner we can all move on. And maybe if you write with that in mind, you’ll make more of these lists you claim you want no part of.

And moms, cut the bullshit. We all know you ladies are way more organized, successful and powerful than we are. For now. But you’re also FAR more catty, so let’s stop feigning outrage over some minor dad-on-dad crime. And honestly moms, how about treating us as allies instead of potential enemies? You can’t get mad that men don’t put in enough time as husbands and fathers and then turn around and complain that we’re invading your turf. We’re not the Jets and Sharks and there’s no reason this has to end in a knife fight.

Although if I don’t make the next big list, that’s exactly what’s gonna happen!

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Why I Love the Internet

We lost Alexandra a year ago. We miscarried again in February. Since then I think every single person on the planet has gotten pregnant. Seriously, it’s insane. My best friend and his wife, my wife’s best friend and her husband, two good female friends from high school, my neighbor and countless other acquaintances out there on the periphery. All with the proverbial bun in the oven.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them. Thrilled actually. I have nothing but all the love in the world for each of them and I can’t wait until all these babies are born so I can play with them and hold them. But watching everyone else get what you so desperately want…it’s tough.

As the year anniversary of my clash with the abortion protesters drew near, I began to get a little chippy. The YouTube video below is nearing 1 million hits, and with that comes some of the nutcases. There are some nasty comments on there calling me and MJ murderers, telling us we didn’t love our baby enough, etc.

For the most part I’ve been able to ignore them and see them for the crazies they are. But lately, feeling the weight and frustration that’s been building up, I’ve taken to responding to some of them. I know it’s never a good idea to feed the trolls but I can’t help it.

I’ve just been so fucking angry. I feel like anger seeps out of my pores and spontaneously combusts as I walk around on fire. I’ve considered taking the video down and even stopping this blog altogether just to get away from it all and not have to deal with it.

And just then, I got the most soul-refreshing email from a perfect stranger whose kind words have helped me gain some perspective and really soothed me. And boy did I need it. So, with her permission and taking out some identifying information, I’d like to thank the author of this email for saving me when I desperately needed it.

Hello Aaron, my names M___. I’m a 20-something year old from the midwest – an artsy nerd, a roller derby girl, a typical black sheep art school type. I’m also among the thousands of young women who had to make the choice that would leave my heart permanently chipped. To keep a difficult story short, I made a similiar choice as you and your famliy. I was (and still am, though it doesn’t feel it) young, it was unplanned as the story usually goes: I was on medication for anxiety that unknowingly effected my method of birth control, and finding out I was pregnant was a shock I always told myself I would never allow to happen.

However, it wasn’t the worst news either. I had stability and luxeries a lot of young mothers didn’t have – a long, strong relationship with my soon-to-be husband, an almost too supportive, traditional southern family that wanted me to ‘get hitched’ and settle down with a family by the time I was 18 anyway. My grandmother was estatic. With the comfort knowing I had the means and support to bring a child into a world of nothing but love and financial comfort within both families, over time I was infatuated with mommy-dom like I had never imagined.

I recieved similair news you and your wife endured later in my pregnancy. I then made the same choice.

I don’t normally do this, go out of my way to contact a stranger, especially through youtube, but you truly deserve it. I know from reading your blog excerpt that you felt foolish for confronting those women on the street, these people who put so much of thier time and effort into spreading ‘the word’ of God with ridiculous scare tactics and a blind eye to all the reasons there are to end a pregnancy, a choice every woman deserves without ridicule. My child was the victim of chance and an unfortunate genetic history, and though I felt it, it was of no fault of this baby or my own. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself when I was harrassed trying to enter a planned parenthood. I was miserable and heart broken. I hurt so much I wanted to die, and the protestors could see I was wounded. They knew they had the ammunition to bring me down, to make my shame into a cruel example, and they did so in front of every person within ear shot as I tried to do what was best for my health and a child that would not reach full term no matter how much I willed it otherwise. I was powerless in that moment, too upset to voice my side, so instead I just looked at my feet and cried into my hands.

I know what you said on the street that day wasn’t everything you wanted it to be in the heat of the moment, that maybe you didn’t feel like it was a victory. I just want you to know that when I read your story, and saw you from that day, that in a small way I felt like you were protecting me.

I hope with all my heart that you and your family are happy, healthy and continue to stay strong.

M___

 

This is not to paint myself as a hero. I’m the farthest thing from it. This is to say thank you to M.

Even if yours was the only supportive email I received, it was worth it. Aside from the obvious pain MJ was in that day at the clinic, I was equally saddened by the young faces of the women sitting in the lobby that day, who had also just run the gauntlet of crazy religious zealots shouting at them with no understanding of their particular circumstances. I saw the shame, compounded by taunts from the thoughtless jackasses outside. And every so often their hateful words would drift in through the cracked window, causing a fresh round of tears and heartbreak for women making an impossible decision.

Yes I had my wife in the forefront of my mind that day, but I took a mental snapshot of each face in that waiting room and tucked it away. And I thought about women who went there for abortions in the past, who didn’t have anyone to stick up for them. Who either wouldn’t, or couldn’t, fight back. Women like M.

Thank you for that email M. You’ll never quite understand what it means to me. Or how much I needed it. Say what you want about the Internet, but it allowed me to connect with a total stranger on a ridiculously meaningful and personal level. And I’m forever grateful for that.

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Thanks Dad

It’s been more than two weeks since I detailed our ordeal with little Alex, and I’m still getting crap from anti-choice zealots. Like these gems:

I am confused. Why is the couple supposed to feel better about having an abortion and cutting the obviously living baby’s life short? Why is that supposed to be better than letting nature take its course and delivering the stillborn baby? Is it because it’s less trouble for the parents? So they can get the baby’s death over and start the grieving process sooner? Wouldn’t it be harder to be the cause of my baby’s death after seeing an ultrasound, as they did? It seems to me there IS only one choice, to let this baby live as long as possible.

Here is the problem with the logic of this video. This guy is upset because he put great value in the 16 week old fetus that he calls “our baby”, but his lack of understanding for what these protesters are trying to do seems to give no value in the other “babies” that are killed at this location. He says it was one of the most difficult days of their lives, but has NO EMPATHY for the other babies murdered there and those trying to prevent their deaths.

The pro life lady was not yelling at anybody, you were yelling at her. Abortion is on demand worldwide, the killing of innocent human life is not rare but has become way too common. You should take a look in the mirror because you need to Repent.

Nice huh? Some real Mensa candidates in that bunch.

Thankfully, they’ve been the minority and all of you have been fantastic. As in spectacularly fucking supportive. I thought the best way to fight back was to send vitriolic responses to each and every one of them. But now I see the error of my ways. Instead, I’m going to be noticed. By as many people as possible. As difficult as it is to talk about this at times, I want to be heard. I want every protester possible to know our story so they realize exactly who they’re hurting when they stand outside shouting at people like gutless cowards. And you all have helped make that happen.

And now it’s my dad’s turn. Although he works for a stainless steel company, he used to be a journalist too. And even now he’s a columnist for the local newspaper in our hometown. So he wrote something and now I’m posting it here because I thought it was great and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

Thanks dad. I love you.

Abortion – it’s an ugly term.  It has a deservedly harsh connotation to it, conveying an untimely ending and something gone horribly wrong.

My son and daughter-in-law had to make a decision to terminate their pregnancy recently, a pregnancy nearly four months along.  They chose to do it, although in reality there was no choice.  But it was still incredibly difficult.

Their baby – my grandchild – had a rare and fatal congenital birth defect called Sirenomelia, otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome.  Due to a vascular malfunction, the baby’s legs were fused together.  The baby had no bladder, no kidneys, and no chance of surviving.  The defect occurs once in about every 100,000 births.

The pain this caused my son and his wife, who very much wanted this second child, is indescribable.  You cannot possibly fathom the depths of their despair unless you have been in a similar position.  And while nowhere near as bad, the pain of having to watch our children go through this is something my wife and I pray we never have to experience again.

Our kids handled their situation with all the class, dignity and responsibility human beings can be expected to muster.  We are so proud, even as our hearts break for them.  Their strength and devotion to one another and their two-year-old son is the stuff of legends.

But their ordeal was made even more unnecessarily awful by the politics and social controversy surrounding the abortion issue.  On one of the worst days of their lives, they became victims again – this time at the hands of those trying to do God’s work while in fact doing just the opposite.

Although my daughter-in-law was treated at a major Boston hospital, the time-sensitive nature of the procedure necessitated it be done at an affiliated establishment.  After she and my son mustered the necessary courage and emotional strength to get where they had to go, they were met by something they had not considered in their grief – abortion protestors.

Two women were picketing outside the establishment, carrying signs and “communicating” with women walking in the door.  One carried a sign of religious symbolism.  As my son and his wife tried to enter the building where they would lose the baby they already loved so much, they were approached by the women.

“You’re killing your unborn baby!’ was the remark they would remember most as they walked past.  They were both furious and devastated, but held their tempers and concentrated on what needed to be done.  But once my daughter-in-law was in surgery, my son decided to take on the protestors.

In a calm but firm tone, he told them of his wife’s condition.  How they had accosted her at the most vulnerable point in her life.  How they had hurled accusations when they had no idea of the circumstances.  How they claimed to be protecting, yet seemed more intent on hurting.  And better yet, he recorded the entire conversation on his cell phone and posted it on his internet blog.

These particular protestors care about the unborn, but apparently are not concerned with those who have already come into the world.  They made no attempt to discover the circumstances and just assumed this was a couple ending an unwanted pregnancy.  To them, my kids were simply collateral damage in an ongoing war – the price to be paid for later success.

This column is not about a woman’s right to choose, although I have my own opinions on that matter.  It is about the culture of hatred and disrespect that people today foster when they single-mindedly focus on one goal to the exclusion of nearly all else.  It is about allowing the end to justify the means.

I am so proud of my son, and perhaps even more proud of his wife.  At a time of great personal turmoil, they did not just retreat inside their own grief – though no one would have blamed them.

Rather, they cared enough to take the time to explain to these people how their actions can destroy others.  How their words can scar forever.  How nothing is ever as clear or as simple as it seems.

I love them dearly, and I will never forget the lessons they have taught us all.

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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?

CHECK OUT FATHERHOOD FRIDAY OVER AT DAD-BLOGS, WHERE I HANG OUT WITH OTHER DADS WHO NEGLECT THEIR CHILDREN IN THE NAME OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND INCREASED SITE TRAFFIC.

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