“You can’t knock the hustle.”
— Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” Reasonable Doubt (1996)
It’s been a long time, I know. Here on the other side of the screen, the hustle is real, filling my schedule with so much that the blog became a sad afterthought for a while. Seeing your numbers drop is frustrating when you know you could keep it all going if only you had more time, but we need to keep realistic. You can’t force the words out. You can’t expect to mine gold from within when your soul’s worn out. Even when the gravy train’s speeding along and everything’s going amazing, you can’t buy into your own hype — because it’ll bring your house of cards tumbling down, leaving you emptier than you started, needing to rediscover to get back on that horse.
April’s underway and everyone’s dusting the cobwebs off, getting ready to take advantage of the little good weather we get each year. Bloggers in particular get chomping at the bit as brands look to increase their real-world visibility since influencers aren’t trapped in their homes anymore. 2015 got me started early — January and February came laden with more experiences and opportunities than I’d ever expected, but March really drove the point home that I’m going to need to handle the blog with a level of professionalism I’m not used to, learning how to continue evolving while keeping my message firmly in mind — a balance I think most too readily let slip through their fingers.
But let me do better than just talk about it and show you what went down in the month that kept me from the blog, feeling like a sign of things to come.
Been a while since I wrote anything truly personal. I’ve been so caught up with opportunities, deadlines and various life commitments that I haven’t taken the time to sit down, look back, and make sense of everything going on around me.
We’re in the last days of August and summer slipped through our fingers. Any day now, we’ll see our mailboxes stuffed with Halloween and Christmas flyers as we dive headfirst into the dreaded months that make us go “‘ber”. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself (it is my blog, after all), but I feel like many of us entered 2014 striving to make it awesome, but the world looked upon us, responding with a resounding “blah”.
It’s not all bad, though — while things feel very “business as usual”, a lot has happened in 2014, and the summer’s no exception.
So making like it’s my first day back to school and I’m catching my friends up on everything they missed these last few months, here’s my report on everything I did this summer — the ups, the downs and everything in between in a piece I call “Not Quite Sure What I Did Last Summer”.
2014’s seen me grow a lot, finally realizing what it’s like to have a voice, believing in it enough to stop compromising and start telling the world how I really feel. I’m not producing as aggressively as I used to, but now I’m giving each post the respect it deserves, trying to outdo myself every time I put pen to paper (literally — that’s how I write my thoughts before they hit your screen!) My blog is my platform to air my thoughts and share my experiences, and despite a blogger industry over 150 million deep, no one does it like I do it.
And that’s what bloggers need to remember — you’re not supposed to do it like anybody else; people read your stuff because it’s you.
But this month more than any this year taught me that my contemporaries are too often scared to have opinions, show vulnerabilities, or be human — in short, too many bloggers spend too much time writing too few things that actually matter.
And May, a month where my nightlife mostly involved playing with my 6-month old and hanging with my wife, it was the month reminding me what I should be doing with my time.
I Go 0 to 100, Man, Real Quick!
May was the first month this year where I really felt comfortable in my new skin — no longer trying to reconcile my #BloggerLife with the new path I’m walking; finding joy in the life of a father, spending less time at events and more in my neighbourhood… in ways, it’s like I pulled a 180º on who I was.
Less social media meant a return to life before tweeting, reconnecting with the family and friends I hadn’t seen as much of since diving into the blogosphere. It meant Saturday strolls with the family to the local ice cream shop, backyard barbecues and friends coming over with gifts and treats to celebrate the new little guy in my life, capturing the hearts and Likes of my social circles. Even as I grew less visible in the Twitterati circles, spending more 9-5 doing the corporate jive and more 5-9 keeping the kid alive, I didn’t feel like I was missing out — a change was in the air, with a new me needed to handle all the adventures laying ahead.
Here’s a look at some key stuff that went down in May, one month closer to making 2014 my best year yet!
Podcasting — More Than JUST a Blogger
Though I’ve yet to launch a podcast myself, I’m not one who’s camera- or microphone-shy. I found some time in May to hook up with Eric Freedlander and Peter DeWolf on their respective podcasts to talk social media, fatherhood, and the constant hustle of life in Toronto. If you’ve got some time to spare and ears yearning for some quality content, you should give ’em both a listen!
With a kid in the picture, our neighbourhood’s embraced us differently — we’ve gone from Sarah and Casey the “nice young couple” to Sarah and Casey the “trustworthy parents”. Instead of East York just being a place I’d go to at night to lay my head I’ve started seeing everything my ‘hood has to offer, its food fare, its parks, its people. The more I immersed myself in my community, the more I knew I needed to get involved.
In May, I started getting hyperlocal in my “urburbs”, linking up with the Greenwood Community Association and the Danforth East Community Association to start telling the tales of Danforth East, using my years of experience up ’til now to help my neighbourhood get the profile it deserves. Over the last several years, Danforth East’s landscape has changed, with plenty of new faces, new shops and plenty of ways to stuff your face. The shots above are just a sample, but you should stop by sometime to see what we’ve got to offer!
Sky’s the Limit
Though no one can believe it, 2014’s almost halfway done. Even a cursory glance at The 2014 100 tells me my paradigm’s shifted considerably these past five months — though I did buy a lawn mower (#61); demolish the hours of TV I expected to consume in 2014 (#67); and shrink the number of browser tabs I keep open by adding everything to my ever-growing to-do list (#71); it’s not like I had room for grandiose travel plans to hit SXSW (#3) or the World Domination Summit (#4). I’ve worked my butt off on the content hustle, churning more content out than ever before, already down to 130 drafts from the 220 I had closing out 2013 (#23). Fixed the wi-fi (#33), sorted the hot mess of a file structure on my computer and external hard drives (#43), rekindled my relationship with my grandparents now that I’m a parent myself (#46) — I don’t even care what the haters say, this year’s been a landmark one for me so far. (Even threw out all the business cards after massively rebranding myself to the new “grown man” Casey Palmer [#64]!)
Couldn’t even honestly tell you what to expect these last 7 months — the only things written in stone are some family time off to show the kid off to some relatives, but I’m on that grind in every other way. 30 years down and an entire future ahead, though many look at this age and decide it’s over the hill — time to settle down — I constantly remind myself that Oprah didn’t even have The Oprah Winfrey Show until she was 32, building one of the world’s greatest brands over 25 long years of work.
This ain’t a sprint; it’s a marathon I’ve run and will keep running until the Lord finds something else for me to do.
Chase those dreams, people — I know I am.
Until the next,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Jeez — has it already been two months since I did a “monthly” wrap-up post? Makes sense: time’s something that means a lot less once you become a parent — everything’s just one big blur.
I’ve struggled with this post for a while now. I’ll look at my life, wondering why anyone would want to read about the things I do — people think I live some glamorous “blogger life”, but I spend most of it at home or work, throwing in time for food, sleep, hygiene and commuting. After blogging for so long, sure I’ve started working with brands to introduce themselves to new audiences, but don’t get it twisted — there’s no one rolling out the red carpet when I sit down at home to get my blog on.
Sarah recently pointed out that I hadn’t taken a break since the two weeks I took off right after our son was born, and six months later — while I deny being burnt out — I definitely feel it. I can feel my annoyance with people I’d usually just ignore. I feel my mind scrambling to finish everything now, now, NOW as I do well with the beginnings and endings of journeys, but I loathe being stuck in the middle. I feel like everything’s in transition, and I can’t wait to make it to the other side with a better idea of the work I’m called to do.
Though it’s a smidge late for my monthly wrap-up, I’ve kept busy both on- and offline, making the most of my life despite an unappreciative work culture and the challenges of parenthood. I entered Tobago’s Division of Tourism and Transportation’s 60 Days in Paradise contest, hoping for some time in the sun and a change of pace from Toronto’s constant grind. I taught photography fundamentals to up-and-coming women in the fashion and beauty industries, taking a first step toward teaching and public speaking, two things I’ve wanted to grow in for a long time now. I’ve made sandwiches, reclaimed some of my ancient past from my parents’ place and dedicated my son in his first step of being part of our church and the community that comes with it.
All things considered, I’ve started Spring off in a good place, huddled indoors avoiding The Winter that Would Not End, and if you’re anything like my fellow Torontonians and I, you know that winter sorely overstayed its welcome! But here on the other end of Gore-Tex boots and thermal underwear, my teeth stopped chattering and fingers thawed long enough to tell you what mischief I did get into those 61 days….
Hanging with Team Trolling
Oftentimes, I can’t believe it’s only been 2 years since I started hanging out with these guys. If there’s a constant in my life outside of my home, taxes and a workload that just won’t quit, it’s the Trolls. Chatting daily on numerous platforms, we’re always up to something.
In March and April, the shenanigans happened at three places….
Cel’s Birthday at Pauper’s Pub
Unlike #SavvyMoney or #DoomzDay, we never came up with a good hashtag for Marcel’s birthday. That should be his gift next year!
Marcel’s girlfriend and her roommate convinced me to give Sons of Anarchy another chance after its first 5 seasons left me feeling lukewarm. Glad I did, because Season 6 is ah-may-zing!!!
Obtained yet another illicit roti delivery courtesy of Justin and Marie — part of Team Trolling’s Western Division — and all I had to do in exchange was pick some cables up from Infinite Cables. I’d make that trade any day.
Val didn’t wind up with credit card fraud on this visit to Pauper’s, which is always a bonus!
The Trolls Hit Pizzeria Libretto, aka Casey’s Favourite Pizza Joint in All of Toronto
red pepper, almond romesco sauce, Libretto herb oil
house-made crema fresca, lemon, chives, rosemary
spicy bomba tomato sauce, grilled crostino, grana padano
If you came here for a food review, might I direct you to Justin’s blog on the matter — I was there to take photos and enjoy the company. But no word of a lie — I haven’t found a pizza in this city yet that can trump Libretto’s Nduja Sausage pizza, and trust me — I eat a lot of pizza!
We managed to use our social media swagger to secure their semi-private room in the basement (sorry, table we bumped — feel free to holla at us if you want to tell us how you really feel), and with our special guest JennJenn of AwesomeJennJennnotoriety fame, it made for an excellent night.
By far the oddest server ever, who not only served us with style, but may have eaten the last piece of Marie’s delicious lemon meringue pie (thus coining what will only be called the “Catchphrase of the Year”), and convinced me to have another beer in the most unexpected way possible when I thought I was already covered!
Somehow getting JennJenn’s leftover proscuitto pizza switched with Lily’s… questionable white anchovy pizza. Sadly, neither pizza was eaten, with Lily throwing JennJenn’s out and Sarah throwing Lily’s out after it sat for days. It was probably for the best.
All Star Wings and Ribs
Freshly prepared Nacho Chips topped with a 1/2 lb. of cheese, diced tomato, jalapenos, and shallots. Served with salsa and sour cream. Add ‘Certified Angus Beef’ brand chili (4 oz.) Add grilled chicken (5 oz.) Add pulled pork
6 battered mozzarella sticks. Served with zesty cajun dip.
BBQ, Cajun, Creole Mustard
Sweet Chili Thai, Creamy Garlic Parmesan
Finally, we made our way to the northern Mississaugan reaches to catch Game 5 of the Raptors’ ill-fated first round playoff series. It’s hard to take photos of the food when your fingers are slathered in wing sauce, but I can tell you that the food, friends, “F Brooklyn” tee that Jo had thoughtfully provided, and a heart-stopping basketball game made for a very fulfilling night.
If only the traffic out of Toronto hadn’t been so horrible.
Most notable, other than keeping our server very amused with our antics, was the game and going H.A.M. as the Raptors blew our minds… and then disappointed… and then got lucky. JEEZ, Raps.
Oh, and schooners. Way too much beer in my life, people.
Held in King West Village’s 99 Sudbury, Ford threw a bash to celebrate 50 years of the Ford Mustang, a muscle car journeying through cinematic time from 1964’s Goldfinger from the James Bond film series all the way to 2014’s Need for Speed (starring the likes of Aaron Paul and Scott Mescudi).
For me, #FordMustang50 was an excellent case study in what happens when you make yourself scarce, suddenly reappearing after a bit of a hiatus.
SPECS AND INFO Owner: George O’Hearn, Oakville, Ontario Colour: Blue medium metallic with matching medium blue interior (as ordered) Built date: December 23rd 1969 Sold new in Detroit and imported across the river to Wndsor in 2000 where the car was restored. 351 cubic inch Cleveland “M” engine and close ratio four speed with Hurst shifter. The car is an original “H” code (meaning it came with a 351 Cleveland 2 barrel). The transmission and rear-end are original to the car with only the engine being upgraded. Power disc brakes were added as a safety upgrade (factory available option in 1970).
Okay, not exactly true — I popped in at ReGiftTO, I managed to hit the Canadian International Auto Show, but it’s all different now. Any time I go out, it’s like I’m trying to make up for all this social time I missed in one big bang. I still need to learn a lesson about taking things in stride, but I’m not there yet.
Since 2013’s Blue Party, Ford’s helped me grow my appreciation for vehicles — but for me, the night wound up being less about the cars and more about reconnecting with the friends I’d seldom seen since my son made his début, and meeting new people who had all sorts of stories to share! I talked frugality and storytelling with an elementary school teacher; discussed the relatively new trend of urbanites who see no value in having a driver’s license; and even did okay in the trivia they held to award prizes (despite knowing almost none of the answers!) For a better look at the night’s events, I recommend hitting Christine’s blog on the matter 🙂
The 2014 100: Updates
Life isn’t simply some template for you to slot your experiences into — life evolves along with your relationships, environment and personality. With that in mind, maybe it’s foolish to compile a 100-item list of things to accomplish when a year’s barely begun — it’s good to have goals, but over a year, our interests and opinions can change. Much like I said last year, while the list won’t change by the year’s end, the person behind it definitely will.
All things considered, I did knock a few more items off of the list in the last bit….
6 – Open an RESP for DoomzToo
The maximum annual RESP contribution that the federal government will top-up is $2,500, which may seem like a lot, but between gifts, tax refunds and Universal Child Care Benefits, you can make it work. I won’t go over the rules and regulations behind them, but when you get a kid, it’s smart to get on this as soon as possible to take advantage of the magic of compound interest.
So with Sarah’s help, we got an RESP open, and in another couple of decades, hopefully we’ll see a return from the investment 😉
26 – Guest blog more often
Sometimes my ambition extends beyond my ability, and that conundrum presented itself repeatedly throughout March and April!
As a general rule, if you’re already struggling with content for your site, perhaps you shouldn’t be writing for others.
But despite that two-month slump, I’m coming back swinging for the rest of the year, ready to tell the world exactly what’s on my mind.
47 – Finish the family tree to the best of my ability
Thousands of entries and hours of research later, the family tree’s as far as it’ll get without going to Jamaica for more information. I remember struggling with making one when I was young, as much of my family history wasn’t documented or too muddled by generations of assumption and oral history. Perhaps it’s that feeling of frustration that drives me, never wanting my son to experience the same and giving him everything he needs to know about where he came from.
I’d love to eventually take this a step further and dig up some church records from all over the Caribbean, but until free time and a whole heap of money intersect paths in my life, I think I’ll consider this one done.
74 – See a doctor about the mysterious pain in my side
The mysterious pain in my side’s been solved — turns out when you’re unaccustomed to bending over to grab your kid from his crib, your body can react in unexpected ways.
When I pick things up, I bend with my knees — I’m better off with a bum knee than a bad back, after all! That, though, is not an option when grabbing a baby from a crib, as I’d often do with our son in the earlier days before sleep training.
The more I got him, the less it bothered me, until the pain had gone. Also, carrying a 20-pound baby around makes you stronger, like it or not. Yeah, I think my physical can wait ’til 2015.
So I did it — I finally did it. I wrote this post without putting too many people to sleep! It’s over a week into May, and things aren’t getting any quieter. The summer’s the busiest season for all the social activities in Toronto, and even with a baby, I have a feeling that this one’s will be a year to remember!
Catch you on the flip side,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
As I stood outside, chipping away at our icy walkway with a spade borrowed from our in-laws (because remember, our garage is still frozen shut from the ice storms), I suddenly recalled that February started with a surprise visit from my parents.
Having missed out on seeing DoomzToo for the entire month of January, they came to Casa de Palmer to see a scruffy Casey Palmer in his house clothes, a relaxing weekend planned with his family and sister-in-law, who was visiting from Ottawa.
Lesson learned — always dress like you’re ready for anything.
Regardless, another month’s come and gone, much of it spent seeking refuge from the harsh Canadian winters we face each February. Many of my Canadian peers likely read this with disdain — after all, what does Toronto know about the cold? — but while we don’t share the massive snowfalls or the extensive swaths of black ice you endure while commuting to your destinations, we too know freezing winds that chill you to the bone. We too know the misery of days all too short, sun blotted out by snow, hail and all manner of projectile falling from above to ruin our days.