On ‘building your dream blog’.

Whether you’re using your blog as a platform for which to vent out the current frustrations of daily life, or, you imagine it a platform for people to come to and learn about the newest and greatest trends of the moment… whatever your reason for blogging, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to take the time to learn.

Learn about the website you’ve chosen to use for your blog. Learn about blogging trends. Learn how to create your best blog. Learn about analytics. Learn about search engine optimization. Learn about how best to phrase the thoughts in your mind so they make the most sense to someone who isn’t you. There’s so much to learn when it comes to blogging. This is an activity that, in my opinion, you should never stop trying to learn more about.

With so many blogs out there, often times it can be really easy to ask yourself ‘is there even room for me’? Yes. There is always room for you. Learning will allow you to better yourself and your blog. If you’ve been wondering about things to read or learn, here are a few tips that I have found very helpful to myself over the past couple of months (since I started my blog in January):

  1. Write for yourself first. This is integral when it comes to writing a successful blog. And, it also happens to be the step that will make you most happy. Trying to write what you think people want to read/see/hear will leave you unsatisfied and confused as to why you’re not achieving the growth you desire. Writing about what you want will help you to find an audience who loves and/or understands exactly what you do and how you feel.
  2. Be consistent. Consistency is one of the most important tools a blogger can use to their favour. Remind yourself that it’s much easier to lose traffic than it is to build it up, so, if you’re blogging, ensure you’re consistently blogging.
  3. Choose a simple layout. Think of it this way: if you’ve ever been to a website and thought that it was cluttered, not user friendly and had an ugly layout, remember that everyone has different opinions. What you like isn’t necessarily what anyone else likes. So, if you’re hoping to create a platform for which to appeal to the most amount of people possible, chose a simple design. Something that is simple is user friendly and far more likely to appeal to more eyes than a specific, more complicated design.
  4. Use catchy headlines. A catchy headline is the perfect amount of click-bait needed to get someone to read your article/post/entry, without actually lying to them about the content within it. (This is much easier to do if you write your blog post first and then choose your headline) The rules for creating a catchy headline are to keep it simple, powerful, useful and bold.
  5. Don’t cheat. I cannot stress this enough. In this day and age, it’s sooooooo damn easy to just talk to one of those ‘growth hacking’ firms that can provide you ‘x’ amount of followers for just a one time fee of $45.99. Please believe me when I say this… a small amount of real followers who follow you because they genuinely love your content and, hopefully you, are infinitely more valuable than any amount of followers that you could purchase.
  6. Give away your knowledge. If you’re a subject matter expert on a certain area, tell people. Give them the information that you have to give. Teach them things! People love to learn, and if someone wants to read, allow them the opportunity. Don’t hold in the good stuff for fear of giving away the ‘secret sauce’. The secret sauce is that blogging is free, and if you have the opportunity to teach someone something – teach them. If you’re a doctor, teach people about health and wellness and how to avoid illness. If you’re a librarian, teach people about books and the options that libraries can provide. Whatever you consider yourself a subject matter expert on, why not share that information and allow us to all be informed?
  7. Stay true to yourself. People don’t care to follow a site as much as they care to follow a person.
  8. Don’t demand attention. Earn it. Hopefully this is pretty self-explanatory. No one has to read your page. It’s not a requirement in anyone’s day. What can you do to make them want to read your page? Because you’re certainly not going to succeed if you try to force them to read it.
  9. Pick a side. If you’re wrong, don’t be afraid to admit to it. Your opinions are your own for a reason, so don’t be wishy-washy when you’re talking. Share your opinions, and be open to the opinions you get in return.
  10. Love the readers you already have. It can be really easy to get so focused on growth that you ignore the people who are already reading your blog. If you’ve got people who are reading your posts, time after time, let them know you’re appreciative of them. If you intend on growing your audience organically, show as much kindness to your readers as they are showing to you.
  11. Use proper tags. Tags are what allow your posts to be searchable, both on wordpress and on google. If you’re aiming to be searchable, having the proper tags associated with your posts can help immensely in drawing people to your page to read your posts. If you write a post about Anxiety, tag the post ‘Anxiety’, don’t tag the post ‘Follow me’.
  12. Give it time. Don’t forcus on the analytics… at least not right away. Successful blogging does not happen overnight. If you’re aiming to grow your audience organically, acknowledge the fact that it could take months, if not years to grow a readership that you might desire.

I think the most important thing you can do for yourself when blogging is to do it for yourself, first. Feed your soul. Let out your thoughts, sadness or desires. Make yourself happy. If you chase this as your passion, that passion will resonate. Do it for the right reasons.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

Adventures in job hunting (the saga continues)

If there’s one thing that I absolutely hate in life, it’s being lied to. Just be honest. There’s no reason not to. If you’re trying to hide something then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

This morning, I went to a job interview at ‘Company X’. Company X advertised a marketing position on their website, that, when I read the description, I thought I could do well at. My degree is in Marketing with a Minor in Economics. I’ve been working Public Relations for the past decade, so when it comes to skills, I’ve got the vast majority of the Marketing/Communications sector covered.

What a fucking waste of time this morning was for me.

Flash back to last week – When I applied for the position, I noticed that the job description was incredibly vague. That being said, I applied for it anyway, excited of the prospect of landing a marketing role.

The position title: “Marketing Executive”

The position description:

  • Work with local businesses to understand their business cycle and their advertising needs 
  • Work with local businesses and non-profits to design an advertising campaign to meet targets 
  • Provide on-going support to ensure optimal client service 
  • Ongoing awareness of our clients’ day to day challenges 
  • Receivables control 

Vague, right? But, I thought that in my current state I should apply and see what happened. A marketing role could be good for me right now, and if they selected me for an interview, I could ask them the questions I wanted at the interview to learn more about the job.

There’s one GIANT bullet point missing from the job description. The actual position description should be:

  • We are looking for a Sales Representative. This position is 100% sales based.

That’s right. The actual position has nothing to do with marketing. The actual position doesn’t have to do with businesses marketing or advertising needs. They have a team for that. They just want someone to sell companies – and bring in revenue.

The interviewer asks “What experience do yo have in sales?” None. I have no experience in sales. You know this. Why? Because you read my resume. You knew this when you called me last week and requested an interview. Why would I think I need sales experience… it’s listed nowhere in the job description or title.

Working with local business to determine advertising needs, to me, means that you sit down with the boss and find out what he/she wants their brand to be portrayed as. Working with local business to determine advertising needs does not mean cold calling all over town to beg people to purchase advertising. You know this, and you purposely left it off of the job description because you know if people knew the full truth about this position whilst it was posted online, no one would apply.

Furthermore, what I learned today: the position has no salary, it’s 100% sales commission paid. Therefore, if you sell something you get 10% of whatever sold. He says “To put that in perspective, if you sell $300,000 in revenue in a year, you’re going to make about $30,000.”

Are you fucking kidding me? Who is going to sell $300,000 in revenue in this industry… in this town? We’re not in Vancouver or Toronto. We’re in a town in the middle of nowhere with a limited customer base and even more limited audience.

You’re required to work 8-5 Monday to Friday, but you don’t get paid unless you make sales. That’s fine – then advertise this as a fucking sales position, not as a marketing position.

One other thing I learned was that they have teams to put together advertising needs and desires for clients. Yeah, all those bullet points up there about working with clients to determine their needs… they have a team for that. They literally just want someone to go out and do the sales.

My final question for them this morning was if they have a database to work off of for potential customers/people to start with. No. They don’t. Whomever takes on this role has to create the database of potential customers through cold calling. They quite literally have NOTHING set up for this position.

Why would I waste my time with this?

If you can’t even be honest on your job description you post online, why do you think anyone would want to work for you? You know you’re creating a ridiculous ask of any incumbent and that’s why you lied about the position in the job description you posted.

I won’t be speaking to Company X ever again.

In the words of Ariana Grande… thank u, next.

Grateful for the Warriors

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms with babies in arms, moms with babies in heaven, mom’s who are struggling to conceive, adopted moms, step moms, dads who are mom and moms at heart. We see you. We appreciate you.

*The above was written by my friend Amanda. I stole it because it adequately explains the sentiment in my heart on a day like today.

My mom’s pretty sick today. She’s been having a rough weekend all around. Her last day of treatments was Friday – we’re not really sure if her body is struggling because it was her last day, or if it was a stronger treatment or what, but she’s been in bed most of the weekend. That being said, she’s happy. And that’s what matters. She’s a warrior. The true warrior of 2019 and beyond.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you and I am so thankful for you. Here’s to many more years of Mother’s Day ahead.

Toronto, I love you.

Toronto, I love you. I really do.

I love the way that you look so beautiful, even on a cloudy day. I love your unfailing courtesy, even in the most dense of crowds. Thank you for welcoming me with such ease and treating me as though I belonged, though I’m sure I stood out like a sore thumb.

Thank you for allowing me to escape, for giving me the freedom to by myself, for allowing me the opportunity to truly feel whole. Though it was but a quick visit, the time I spent with you meant a whole lot more to me than anything I could explain to my family.

It’s funny, you know, as we grow we change so much. Complete facets of who we thought we were become moments passed, memories faded and desires forgotten. It’s almost as though, one day when you weren’t looking, all of your goals changed. I have such a love for the West Coast, for the mountains, for the Pacific Ocean and the rainforest, and now, for a city in the 4,000 miles away.

While I’m still very much the same me that I’ve always been, I feel calmer. I feel more relaxed about life, more in tune with who I am and what I am capable of. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find that within myself.

Toronto, thank you for reminding me that kindness and courtesy are the two best gifts we can give strangers. Thank you for the Eaton Centre, having all of my favourite places inside of one building was extremely convenient for me and not so convenient for my wallet.

I love downtown traffic. I love that everyone has somewhere to go, and that everyone courteously waits for one another at traffic lights and crosswalks and in parkades. It’s a pretty glaring reminder that patience is a virtue, and that we’re all important… to one another… when it matters most.

Thank you to the kind man who helped me find my car when I was walking the wrong direction down Yonge Street looking for it. Thank you to the kind woman who told me that I had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Complimenting a stranger is a sure fire way of making their whole day. I don’t think we do that enough.

Toronto, you’re noisy, but also somehow completely serene. It’s a complexity that masks the simplicity of my heart, an oxymoron that showcases that things need not always make sense to work just the way it needs too.

Thank you for Lakeshore Drive, for the multi-million dollar homes that I know I’ll never own but love to tour anyway. And thank you for the coffee… the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Thank you for reminding a small-town soul like me that it’s a great big world full of wonder and amazement out there and that, if I really want it, I can reach out and grab it.

Toronto, I love you. I really do.

I travelled to the Honeymoon capital of the world… alone, and this is what happened.

Travelling alone is freeing. Truly.

I’ve often found that when I travel with people, I struggle to be able to do the things that I want to do. I cater to what the person I’m travelling with wants, and it always seems to happen that they won’t cater to what I want. As such, I find myself giving up on the things that I want and dealing with a sub-par trip when I know it could have been better.

This past week I tried something different. It’s something that I’ve read about, quite frequently, but never dared to do. I went solo-travelling.

Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity for solo travel, DO IT. DO IT and don’t ever second guess it.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

For me, Niagara Falls isn’t anywhere exotic. There were no beaches, no bikinis, no foreign folk speaking foreign languages (unless a Boston accent counts). But, the jaunt across Canada meant a great deal to me, being my first dive into solo travel.

I’ve always been fascinated by natural wonders. Mountains that reach the sky, forests that go on forever, beautiful pristine (untouched beaches) that stretch as far as they eye can see, these are the pieces to our world that make me feel obsolete in the very best way. I admire things that are the way they are, not because ‘man’ made them, but because nature made them that way.

Niagara Falls, formed naturally at the end of the last ice-age by the receding of glaciers, is located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls, The Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The three combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft).

The view from my hotel room on the 30th floor in the Tower Suites, Niagara Falls.
(The Horeshoe Falls are on the right, American Falls on the left of this photo)

The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls.

When I was looking for a hotel in Niagara Falls, I knew that I wanted to stay on Fallsview Blvd. because I wanted to be as close to the falls as I could be. The Tower Hotel stood out to me online due to it’s odd shape compared to every other hotel on the strip. The Tower Hotel is a tall, skinny tower with rooms only on the 25th-30th floors.

The Hotel itself was quite basic. There was nothing overly fancy about it. The view from the hotel was exceptional, though. When you’re guaranteed a room on the 25th floor, or higher, there’s a fair chance you’re going to get an exceptional view. And, the view from The Tower Hotel did not disappoint .

*Point of note for booking hotels in Niagara Falls – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hotel rooms cost (at least) $100 more per night than they do on Sunday – Wednesday. Purchasing a hotel room on ‘off-days’ (Sunday-Wednesday) will save you some big bucks when it comes to accommodations. And, if you can afford it, book a hotel on Fallsview Blvd. You won’t regret it.

The view from the Keg restaurant on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites, Niagara Falls.

The Food

One of the things I most wanted to do while I was there was eat at ‘The Keg’ in the Embassy Suites hotel. This Keg restaurant is pretty famous for it’s views, and for the fact that every table in that restaurant has been strategically set up to have a view of the falls. The restaurant sits on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

I called ahead and made a reservation for 7:30, asked if I could sit as close to the windows as possible and hoped for the best. And honestly, the view did not disappoint. Nor did the food. The Keg, known for it’s steak dinners, was very accommodating to my dietary needs, ensuring that my food was cooked separately as to have not touched any gluten, nor to have any dairy in it. I’m not a huge fan of red meat – only eating it once every blue moon – but this dinner was absolute perfection.

*Point of note for the Keg – While the restaurant is situated to have nice views from every table, if you call ahead and make a reservation you can get seated at the windows, where the seats point towards the falls. It’s a romantic setup, and there were a lot of people there on dates/anniversaries that night.

Walking along the falls edge on the Canadian side to view the light show.

The Light Show

The light show of Niagara Falls was something that I have been dying to see. After the sun sets, the illuminate different coloured lights onto the falls to create a light show, in representation of the charity they’re bringing attention to that evening.

I’ve seen incredible pictures of the light show online and always wanted to see it in person. So, I bundled myself up in warm clothes and wandered down to the falls at 10 pm to wander.

I ended up spending over two hours walking up and down the pathway alongside the falls. The Horseshoe Falls were illuminated in beautiful, rainbow arrangements, flashing on and off and the American Falls were illuminated in yellow. The lights themselves lit the pathway for walking, and, because it was so late at night, there were a lot less tourists on the path. (I guess people chose to just not venture out after dark)

Honestly, the night was so freeing. It was almost as though nothing else existed in the universe but me, there, in that space and time. Quite a few people stopped to talk to me along the way, many of them with Boston accents, but overall, the night was filled with the most peace that I have had in a long, long time. I just walked along the edge of the falls, listening to millions upon millions of gallons of water pouring over the edge, rushing down the river into the great lakes. Nature is incredible.

The Honeymoon Capital of the World

It’s worth noting that Niagara Falls’ claim to fame is that it is ‘The Honeymoon Capital of the World’. There are couples EVERYWHERE. Which, is adorable and sweet. If you’re painfully single, though, I could see it being a bit of a nuisance to you. It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.

I crossed paths with many a people who were wondering where my better half was, asking my why I was alone or why I didn’t have a man with me. While I know they were just being friendly and talkative, it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for next time. Maybe I’ll bring a man back with me next time. HAHA!

The Niagara Skywheel by night.

The Niagara Skywheel

The Niagara Skywheel is the largest ferris wheel in Canada that, at the top, reaches 175 feet in the air – providing truly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe and American Falls for the very reasonable price of $14 (adult ticket).

Having a love of ferris wheels, I actually wound up on the skywheel twice. Once, during the day, and a second time after the sun had set to see the light show from the top. To add to the list of romantic settings there are in Niagara Falls, the view from the top of the Skywheel is unmatched. Had I had someone to take with me, I am sure it would have been the perfect spot for that ‘romantic movie moment kiss’ if you know what I mean.

The Skywheel is located at the edge of what is kind of a theme park in Niagara Falls. To be honest, I didn’t really venture into the theme park. Things like bumper cars weren’t really going to provide me the peace I was searching for with my trip. But the Skywheel, that is a must-see stop.

Other touristy activities (that I didn’t take part in):

  • Helicopter tours of the Falls (I would have loved to do this, but it’s quite expensive)
  • Riverboat cruise of the Falls
  • Winery Tours (the southern portion of Ontario is known for being wine country, and there are a lot of Winery’s you can tour)
  • Skylon Tower (a rotating restaurant and observatory)
  • Marine Land

General Tips:

  • Parking at hotels is EXPENSIVE. Just two blocks up from the Falls you can find parking lots that charge $10 for 24 hours. If you choose to park your car with the hotel, it’s going to cost you anywhere from $40-$120 per day/night.
  • Take warm clothes with you, for night. The mist of the falls can make it feel a lot cooler out than the temperature actually is.
  • Niagara Falls has a 13% tourist tax that exists solely within it’s boundaries. Be prepared to pay more in tax while visiting.
  • There are tourist markups the price of virtually EVERYTHING. Something as simple as your coffee at Starbucks can be $2-4 more when purchasing it at Niagara Falls. Those extra expenses add up quickly, so be prepared.
  • If you book a ‘city-view’ hotel room, there’s still a good chance that you can see the falls from your hotel room, anyway. The reasoning for this is because many of the hotels are built diagonally facing the falls, as to be seen from three sides – instead of just one. So, if you’re looking at room prices and you’re worried about the price of a ‘Fallsview’ room, a city view room might provide you just what you need.
  • Though there are towns on both sides of the river, I noticed that the Canadian side was filled mostly with Americans. I think this is largely due to the fact that the view from the falls is sooooo much better on the Canadian side of the border. While there are attractions on the American side, I’m a little biased in saying that you’ll enjoy yourself more on the Canadian side of the border.
  • Make friends! There are so many wonderful people in town. I crossed paths with so many American tourists who were so excited to talk to me when I told them I was Canadian. One, from Ohio, even gave me his email address. He says that he’s travelling to Vancouver this summer and wants me to provide him some tips to make his trip amazing. I mean, sure, why not? There are nice people everywhere, but making friends on vacation can just make it seem so much more memorable.

Overall

The trip was incredible. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. I went in search of some peace of mind, calm and adventure and I found it. All of it. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of thinking.

I have so many plans for my life that have become so clouded and convoluted the past few months with everything that has gone on. Being able to travel on my own and really stop to think about what my goals are and where I am going with my life was an invaluable experience to me.

ALSO – I survived! Not only that but I thrived. I looked after myself just fine, didn’t get into any trouble, have any issues or struggle at all. I was seriously doubting my abilities to do so prior to leaving, so the fact that everything went so smoothly for me was a huge relief.

I’m ready to go on my next adventure. And honestly, I’m somewhat already planning it.

Niagara Falls, thank you. Thank you for your beauty, your hospitality, and the peace of mind that you gave in just a few short days. I felt a great sense of calm being there, which meant a lot to me. It was just what I needed at this point in time and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I highly, highly recommend solo travel to anyone who has been thinking about it or wanting to go somewhere. Going on your own allows you to do things on your terms and choose your own itinerary. You don’t get wrapped up in the likes of what your travel companion wants, so the trip becomes solely about your desires and inspirations. It’s an empowering feeling, and one that I will seek more of in the future.

Life after cancer.

Tonight, I am once again reminded why my mother has the biggest heart of anyone that I know.

Tomorrow is her (fingers crossed) last chemotherapy treatment. She’s been talking about it for weeks. And, though it’s been a pretty freaking miserable process for her the past few months, we were very lucky that her cancer was caught early, and that (fingers crossed) she’ll go into complete remission and we’ll never have to deal with cancer again.

Anyways, I digress.

After spending a few hours at Starbucks tonight, with a friend of mine, I returned home to find that my mother had gone to bed even earlier than usual. An hour earlier than normal. When I asked my dad if she was alright (being worried that she’d gone to bed so early) he said that she was tired from all of the baking she’d done.

What?

Oh yeah. My mom, with the help of my dad, baked lemon pie tarts for the staff of the cancer clinic. She plans to give them to all of the staff tomorrow when she goes in for her last treatment.

Atop the container filled with lemon tarts, she’d taped a note. The envelope says ‘Thank You’. Me, being the nosey daughter that I am, had to open it to read the note.

Here’s how it reads.

Thank You.

Thank you to each and every one of you [she names the staff members, doctors and nurses who’ve helped her the past few months] for helping me, for taking me on my worst day, at my lowest moment and making me feel better. Thank you for wiping away my tears, talking away my fears and for treating me as good, if not better, then you would treat your own family members.

It’s because of the incredible kindness of each of you hat I am here, that I have the opportunity for full recovery, that I get to be one of the lucky ones.

Thank you. It’s because of you that I’ve got a second chance. You’ve given me my life back, and I can’t stop thinking about all of the Christmas and Birthday celebrations that I’ll get to be a part of with my children and grandchildren now, thanks to you. Every moment, every celebration, it will matter that much more than it ever did before.

I am eternally grateful for all that you’ve done for me. And, I really hope that you take this a good way when I say that I hope I never have to visit here ever again.

Sincerely,

[Mom’s name]

I most definitely had an ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ moment when I read it. I resealed the envelope and taped it back to the container as to not let her know that anyone touched it.

Tomorrow is her final chemotherapy treatment (if all goes according to plan). I’m feeling grateful, and thankful that she now gets to start thinking about life after cancer. I know not everyone gets that lucky. And, from the note I read, it sounds like she’s already begun planning her life after cancer… which in itself makes me extremely happy.

Set goals and make radical changes.

I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

‘What do you want out of life?’

I’m actually asked this question quite frequently. Especially in the past four months.

Genuinely, I want adventure. I want to be able to stop and think ‘I can’t believe this is my life’. I want to do things that I never ever thought I could do. I want to go everywhere, see everything and meet everyone. I want to try foods that gross me out and scare the crap out of me.

I want to get on a plane and not know where that plane is headed. I want to know that I always tried, that I always put forth the effort and that I never backed down from a challenge.

And most of all, I want each day to have a new and different sun.

Where do I see myself in five years? Where do I see myself in ten years? Happily travelling the world, sharing stories of people and culture, places and faces, showcasing the unknown, the overlooked and the forgotten about. And, most of all, hopefully instilling a whole lot of wanderlust in everyone that I meet.

I hope that you’ll join me for the ride. And perhaps a cheap flight or two hundred along the way.

Working on the story of my latest adventure right now.