9.29.2011

Busy Season

Feels like I've been everywhere but here lately!

Here's a peek at what I've been up to:

I'm telling the story of why we decided to move to the country over at Everything Mom

I'm wondering if you consider your kid's choice of dress a wardrobe malfunction or just a rite of passage over at The Bad Moms Club

I'm still talking about #momthevote online and in the media

And I'm getting ready to be a speaker/presenter and Tribe Leader at Blissdom Canada!

I'm also trying to finish unpacking my house, get into the groove of our new routine and work on a few other exciting things that I'll be able to share soon.

How's your autumn going?

***

9.15.2011

My #140 Conference Talk: Three Little Words

Today I had the great pleasure of speaking at the #140 Conference. Below is the text of the talk I gave, entitled, Three Little Words: How one tweet changed an election (unabridged version).



Three little words. 

You can put a lot of power and meaning into three little words. 

I love you.

It's a girl.

Up yours, lady - I've heard them all.

But in April of 2011, at the onset of - what? - our fourth election in seven years? What I wasn't hearing - at least, not on Twitter - was any real discussion of that crucial election.

And that was troubling. Because we talk about everything on Twitter. And women on Twitter, well they really talk about everything. And MOMs on twitter? Well, you know there is no subject verboten to the moms on Twitter. 

So one night - April 5, 2011, I was having my regular BBM chat with the women that save my life every night - and these are smart, smart women - and we started talking about it. Why? Why aren't the women on twitter - why isn't our immediate community, the moms on twitter -talking about the election? Why, in between talking about everything from the completely mundane to the totally profound (in 140 characters or less, of course), hadn't our community been talking about the election? Where was that conversation? It simply wasn't there.

So we decided to start that conversation. 

On April 6, I tweeted the following: 

Do you know who you’re voting for? Do you know the parties’ stand on family issues? We need to #momthevote.
Mom The Vote
Mom the vote, that's it; three little words, with the goal being that the moms on twitter start sharing information and asking questions about platform issues that are important to families - which, by the way, is every issue. 
When my little mommy mafia BBM group discussed the plan, we thought that maybe everyday we could tweet some of the most important family issues from each of the party platforms, and start a meaningful discussion. We thought that information was power, that we did not want to see a fifth election in eight years, and that, quite frankly, the current voter stats were nothing less than shameful. 55.8% of my demographic voted in the 2008 election. That's gross. I knew we could do better. 
So of course, we turned to twitter and challenged my community to get involved. I told my community that we needed to Mom The Vote.
My community listened.
My tweet was retweeted, and retweeted and retweeted.
The momthevote hashtag was all over twitter and within days the conversation had exploded, so we did what anybody with the internet and a message would do and we started a Facebook page. And if we thought that the conversation in 140 characters or less had been fruitful, well, we had no idea what kind of bountiful harvest the FB page would bring. Within days we had hundreds of fans and had reached out to a completely different, completely engaged Facebook community. These were not my twitter peeps, and the ride we were on was nothing short of thrilling. 
Within 4 weeks, the Facebook page netted over 60, 000 hits and nearly 2,000 impressions per post, and the momthevote hashtag was hitting 4 million impressions - weekly. There were some pretty amazing things happening - Margaret Atwood used our hashtag repeatedly, pundits and professors were commenting on Mom The Vote - noting that they expected the movement to account for a 1% increase in voter turnout - 1% - it may not seem like a lot, but when the total voter turnout in 2008 was less than 57%, 1% is a significant number - and most importantly, the politicians were noticing. The Liberals were the first to capitalize on the momentum of Mom the Vote, reaching out almost immediately and making themselves completely available to voters online. We also heard directly from The Green Party and the NDP, both of whom incorporated the movement directly into campaign materials and press releases. No word from the Conservatives, despite reaching out to them directly. And whether or not the parties were simply paying us lip service, one thing was clear - Mom the Vote was making an impact with potential voters, and the politicians knew it. Apathy, it seemed, truly was boring, and thousands of women in social media and beyond were telling the politicians precisely what they wanted out of this election.
 And then the traditional media took notice. 
now before I get into that, I think I should tell you just a tiny bit about myself. I have been a professional copywriter for more than 11 years, and I have two speciaties: one is writing very prosaic, very flowery liner notes for nature sound classical and ambient music CDs, and the other, is advertising. And in my capacity as an ad writer, my most important job is to come up with a hook. A headline. An attention grabber. Something catchy. 
And I knew, that if I wanted people to not just listen, but to talk, I had to give them something to talk about. Something catchy, something engaging, and something that everybody I wanted to reach could claim equally as their own. In the weeks following my initial tweet, I was asked many times how I cultivated this movement, this phenomenon. And I answered the question the same way every time - I didn't. I came up with three iittle words. I came up with a catchy tagline and  everybody else did the rest. 
When the globe and mail called me within days of launching the momthevote hashtag, I was pretty excited. I did an interview over the phone, and then they came over to my house to do a photo shoot. You'd think the photo shoot would have been less nerve-wracking than the interview, but it wasn't. I absolutely hate talking on the phone, but I know how to be professional and articulate and get the job done well. But a photoshoot? I'm a social person, but I am a blogger - I really do prefer to stay on the safe side of the screen, and honestly, I have a face for twitter. I also have the housekeeping skills for twitter, and because I am a blogger and a social media junkie, I am also somewhat of a narcissist, so I was convinced that whatever photo was published would be completely scrutinized by readers and that my appearance and that of my house would be judged. Oh, the interview I wasn't worried about; the words I said I wasn't worried about. What I was worried about was that somebody would see the picture including my two very adorable children sitting on the dining room table while I typed at my netbook and think, Oh, she's one of those mothers that lets her kids climb on the furniture while she's on the computer!
Luckily, that's not what happened - at least, I don't think it is - and anyway, I had to get over it pretty quickly, because next up, the CBC called. And they wanted me for a segment on the National - the National! You don't say no to the National no matter how much time you're going to have to spend cleaning your house beforehand. And then a radio station in the Maritimes called and they wanted me for their morning program, and then the Star called and then CBC radio called and they wanted me for Metro Morning, but I let Emma Waverman do that interview on Mom the Vote's behalf because they wanted me to be there at 5 in the morning.
Mom The Vote may have began as a social media campaign, or more correctly, a campaign on social media, but that's not where it stayed. And think about Twitter, about Facebook, about Blogs even to a certain extent - most of what we do online is totally reactionary. We can be eloquent, we can be smart, we can be passionate and we can be clever and dramatic, but usually we are being those things in reaction to something that has happened or was heard of in traditional media. Look at the trending topics on any given day on Twitter - ok ignore the ridiculous #Whoyourbabymama hashtags - and you'll see that almost everything we tweet about is in reaction to some current event or news. And that's amazing; I love knowing which celebrity died before my mother can call and tell me, but Mom The Vote was truly different. Mom the Vote was something that was created, that had its start on Twitter and in social media, and that the rest of Canada reacted to. And that's the part that really blew my mind.
And we did it all on virtually no budget. Our budget was about equal to the price of a Starbucks coffee, and that was, in fact, spent on a Starbucks. The political parties spend thousands - millions - on advertising campaigns and election outreach, and we got an nation talking about our platform, the Mom The Vote platform, on the price of a Starbucks coffee. 
But this couldn't have happened if I hadn't stayed engaged, if I hadn't continued to be the persona behind Mom The Vote. I could have just put it out there and let it go, but there is a social aspect to social media, and that's where the politicians and the mainstream media get it wrong, and we get it right. 
Staying non-partisan was certainly a challenge, mostly on the FB page where different rules apply and passions run deep and hot, but if I wanted this to work, I had to own it. I had to remain non-partisan because that's what I said I was going to do, and I had to keep tweeting because that's what I said I was going to do, and I had to keep talking to the politicians and the media because I said we should Mom The Vote, and when you put it out there, it's out there. People will hold you to your statements, especially political statements, especially political statements that are supposed to be non-partisan. It wasn't always easy. I can move a lot of experiences from that whirlwind month into the "Lessons Learned" category, but they won't all be cautionary tales (like, you never know which angle they're going to shoot from, so do the dishes). 
And one of the most important things that I learned was, you can start a social media campaign and you can spend thousands of dollars and you can have press materials and marketing materials and you can have flashy websites and a manifesto and go to the ends of the internet to make sure your campaign gains momentum. 
Or, you can know your audience, trust your timing, own your message and simply come up with Three Little Words. 

Thank you.

If you're interested in watching the footage of the talk, you can find it here
***















9.11.2011

Surviving School Lunches - Week 1

My daughter started grade one last week, and with it came her first opportunity to eat lunch at school. In other circumstances, I probably would have brought my daughter home for lunch (we are a 10 minute walk or 1 1/2 minute drive away), but her school operates on a 'balanced day' schedule, meaning that the kids get two forty-minute breaks in the day, rather than the usual 15-/60-/15- minutes breaks.

I like the idea. The two breaks are each divided into 20 minutes for 'nutrition' and then 20 minutes to run around outside, and they come at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. When I asked the principal whether or not they felt this approach was working, she was enthusiastic. The kids generally treat the first break as snack time and the second break as lunch time, but it means that the kids are less likely to rush or skip eating time simply because playtime is too precious to waste on eating. And better nutrition and management of eating time means that kids experience less highs and lows during the day, while longer breaks outside of the classroom help keep energy, behaviour and attention levels more steady inside of the classroom.

But it also meant that eating lunch at home was pretty much out of the question for my daughter. Students are permitted to go home during the second break, but I felt that travel time, prep time once home and the stress of having to be back at school within 40 minutes would essentially override all of the advantages of having a balanced day.

Plus, my daughter begged to eat lunch at school. She is also begging to ride the available school bus (unsidewalked country-ish roads mean busses despite the close distance). I'm not quite ready for that one, however.

Anyway, back to lunches.

You all know that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Planet Box lunchbox, and I have to tell you, it has been worth every penny. I realize it's not a necessity for everybody, but it makes me excited (or at least, not dreading) making lunches, so it's a gem to me.

The planning for lunches began before the school year began, and I did the planning with my daughter.
She sat beside me for about an hour, and together we scrolled through scores of pictures of lunches. As we did this, we wrote a list of all of the things that she would be happy to see in her own lunch. Hard boiled egg? Check! Mini muffins? Check! Goldfish crackers? Blech. And so it went, until I had two pages of acceptable ingredients to mix and match.

And so we began. Apologies for the low-res images; I don't have an iPhone and the camera was out of batteries, and yes, it takes me a week to change the batteries in the camera.

Tuesday

2 slices nitrate-free chicken breast, Pillsbury whole-grain croissant,
grapes, tomato and cucumber slices with hummus, one square organic
mint chocolate.


Wednesday

Smoked salmon, grapes, mini pizza slices (aka one left-over pizza
slice cut into 3 'mini' slices), frozen corn, organic mini cereal bar,
two liquorice all-sorts.



















Thursday
Organic cheese with melba crackers 2 slices nitrate-free chicken
breast, carrots, Pillsbury whole-grain croissant, pear and cucumber slices,  
Annie's organic gummy bunnies


















Friday

Hard-boiled egg, grapes, homemade applesauce, mini chicken-
veggie wrap, melba crackers, mini-marshmallows


















Hope you all had a great first week back at school!

A few other places for great lunch ideas:

These 10 lunches they'll actually eat via Parent Central

This comprehensive guide to school lunches via EverythingMom.com

These fantastic lunch plans via Today's Parent

These great tips for picky eaters via Canadian Family










9.07.2011

My September 11





It's hard for me to see to hear to read all of the rehashings of September 11 each year. I empathize, I sympathize and I sometimes even pathologize their pain. I didn't lose anybody in the attacks, but when the sun sets on September 11, a day full of pain and sadness for so many, it will then dawn on the saddest day of the year for me.

My September 11 is September 12, the anniversary of my father's death. 

Am I comparing the two events? No. Yes. No. I marry the events, a pall cast and spread over just so many hours more; a national day of mourning and remembering and railing at the unfairness of it all. I share those things as I think of my father, on the fourth anniversary of his death. 

My father was an American, a Vietnam Veteran and an objector to much of what America was about. His death was not sudden and unexpected, if you count the 4 weeks we had to prepare for it, not sudden and unexpected. He died an ugly, horrible, painful death. We lived through it, we think about it nearly every day. We have survivor's guilt, though his illness was his alone. 

He was one of the most important people in my life, and he is no longer here. 

Grief is grief. Pain and sadness is for the living. 

September 12 marks four years. How, I wonder, can that be? I feel like a lifetime has passed since he went away. I have a child he never knew, for chrissake. Missed knowing her by less than 2 months. She'll miss knowing him forever.

I have a new life he knows nothing about. I had many conversations with my father as we contemplated this huge change, but he didn't have to be there for me to know what he would say. I want you to be happy. Do what you think will make you happy. Your kids are the most important thing in the world. 

His kids were the most important thing in his world. I knew that.

September 11 is fast approaching, say the calendars the newspapers the TVs the magazines. The season of grief is upon us. 

And then comes September 12. 

***