I didn't know it, but this was exactly what I needed

Monday I wrote from my heart in a way that I haven’t really done before. Now I want to share where it came from. 

Last weekend, I attended Podcasters Across Borders (PAB), a conference that has a slightly misleading name. It’s actually all about content. 

No, that’s not entirely accurate.

I think PAB is more accurately described as a conference that is about content that connects. Content that builds relationships. Content that touches a need. These themes were carried through the entire conference this weekend. I came away inspired, uplifted, and even emotionally exhausted. I was not at all prepared for this experience and I think that was a good thing. Had I prepared, I think I would have guarded myself more and not felt what was happening quite so deeply and that would have been a shame.

I went prepared to work. Ipad and phone in hand, ready to take notes and tweet like crazy with my profound and highly insightful thoughts or quotes from speakers. I did a little of that, but it didn’t take long before the conference pulled me in so completely that I put my phone down, didn’t even bother taking my ipad out of my bag and just soaked it all in.

The result is that I honestly don’t remember exactly who said what that stuck with me but there was one session that affected me deeply and profoundly. But let me set the stage for you:

Friday night was the conference keynote where Scott Florence from Company of Fools shared the advice that we should try to fail. That sounds odd, and I may be putting words into his mouth, but I interpreted it as encouragement to jump in to something without planning it to the nth degree. It reminded me of a band director I had who always told us if we were going to make a mistake to make it a big one because they’re easier to hear and fix. People who make quiet mistakes and fly under the radar don’t get noticed and they rarely do great things. Scott’s keynote inspired me to get out and DO the things I’ve been talking about doing - to my family, my partner, and to myself.

While I walked away from Friday night feeling energized and inspired, Saturday morning I was pretty tired after staying up too late working, but I brightened up when I saw these as I was leaving my house:

The focus is horrible due to my rush to get to the conference.

We made an essential stop on our way downtown. This was a first - I’ve seen Caren and Carrin, but never Carren. I always thought my spelling was the default, too…guess I was wrong. ;)

The short walk from where Matt dropped me off to the NAC was gorgeous and I decided to take some pictures for Brandon, who got very upset as soon as I got out of the car.

All this picture taking was putting me into a lovely mindset for the day. It struck me as I was walking down the sidewalk running beside the NAC just how utterly gorgeous Ottawa was right then in that moment. (Yes, always, but right then it was spectacular.)

The picture may not reflect the spectacularness, but trust me on this. It was.This gives you an idea of my hopefulness for the day - eagerness to learn and gain wisdom from others. 

In truth, I had no clue what I was walking into would be more profound and emotional than I ever expected to experience in such a venue. Our kickoff speaker Saturday was a last-minute replacement because the scheduled speaker was unable to make it.

Jason Goldsmith drove two hours that morning from Montreal to join us in Ottawa and I forgot all about my disappointment at not hearing the original speaker as I realized that this was the speaker I needed to hear. Jason is father to Ellis. Ellis is autistic, which has presented challenges to their family. I suspect the communication challenges were the biggest of all. I would love to reiterate Jason’s story, but he does a much better job and what I got out of it was much more important than what was said.

You see, during this session, I was receiving a string of texts from Matt keeping me posted on Brandon. They went immediately back home and Brandon proceeded to meltdown for over an hour. Until this:

I’m sitting there listening to this amazing story, thinking about our own situation with Brandon and knowing that Matt is dealing with an inconsolable child. It was all too much. I was overwhelmed, emotional, at my limit. Just thinking about that hour and a half brings the tears back again. I think that Jason’s talk was host to the moment that I realized that this was real and not going away easily. At the same time, I felt hope that it would be okay, even if it was hard work to get the help Brandon needs. 

If that was the start of the day, what would the rest bring?

Next up was a jolt from Robin Browne, who was eloquent and thought-provoking. He challenged us to think differently and look for the grey in life. To think, not strictly in black and white, but to realize there is more going on than we even realize. He tied in some racial commentary, noting that the first tablet built in Africa wasn’t deemed newsworthy. Yet, that really should be, shouldn’t it? The media thinks in black and white too.

By this time my head was swirling. I don’t even remember who came next. At some point, I talked to Jason, but after the first couple of speakers and because I consciously decided to focus on the speakers and not take notes, I have actually lost some of that day.

But after lunch…oh, that amazing lunch and creme brulee!…I was better. More focused. But not actually prepared to be so completely blown away by one of my lunch table mates. Brandon Wint…just, wow. The PAB video isn’t ready yet, but he spoke at TEDxOttawa and you can see the video here:

I could listen to Brandon Wint talk all day. The pictures he paints with words, spontaneously and unrehearsed, are beautiful, touching and profound. His love of poetry, love of life, love of his country…love of love…come through loud and clear through his art and his person.

You can see now why I say that PAB was about content that connects. In some way, shape or form, I connected with every single speaker and all the people I got to speak to that I shared this experience with. I wish I could share every little morsel with you, because it filled me up so completely.

At the end of the day, when all the speakers were done speaking, it’s an annual tradition to take a PAB family photo. So, we all filed outside to the steps of the NAC where, of course, we saw a young man portaging a pink canoe.

Source: Bob Goyetche

And, of course, he needed to be in our picture too. Because when you see a pink canoe walking down Elgin Street and you have a camera, you take a picture. Lots of them.


Meet Andy, new friend to PAB2012 attendees, simply because he had a pink canoe. Andy’s on a mission to raise awareness and funds for cancer. Clearly, he is not afraid of hard work. His journey started in Kingston, Ontario and he came up to Ottawa and now he’s heading back to Kingston and beyond - all the way to Windsor. 

Carrying a very heavy canoe all the way. 


If you want to find out more about The Pink Portage, you should definitely follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Andy moved on, taking up his canoe and continuing on his journey.

That’s what the final PAB felt like - the start of a journey for me personally. The inspiration, the community, the thoughts swirling in my brain still after nearly a week. It was my first and my last trip to PAB, but I’ll never forget it.

Karen's Chronicles has a new look!

About 10 months ago, I started getting the itch to redesign my blog, but it was the wrong time of year to do what I wanted to do. So, I made a few changes that were satisfactory and waited patiently for the fall colours to arrive. 

Of course, the colours this year have not been quite as brilliant as they usually are due to the unseasonably warm temps, but who complains about that? Not me! Despite that, it was still a gorgeous fall and I jumped at the opportunity to have a family photo shoot with my friend and photographer, Sara McConnell one day in September out at Mer Bleue.

A picture truly is worth a thousand words, so here are a few of the pictures Sara took (not including the ones you’ll see on the blog:

This truck that Sara brought as a prop ended up providing absolute delight for Brandon. He didn’t want to get out of it, even though it’s not particularly well suited for the terrain we were navigating.

But look at that face! He was so happy and enjoying himself.

Eventually he did get out of the truck when he realized Mommy had gone off alone with Sara to do pictures by herself. We can’t have that, can we!? 

No shots alone for mommy and daddy either. This one is better for his being in it, anyway, don’t you think?

The dinosaur just seems to fit right in with the truck. Thank goodness it’s one of Brandon’s toys that I brought with us. He was pretty heartbroken when we had to leave the truck behind. 

If you didn’t already see Sara’s write-up about our shoot, here it is…better late than never! Thanks to her I was finally able to do two things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. 

So, what do you think? :) 

The Golden Rule applies online, too

There is a tendency, when interacting online to engage others in ways that are different than our usual face-to-face practices. It’s interesting to me that this happens, as it implies a loss of inhibition. Or, in some cases, a deceptive persona that takes over when staring at a computer screen.

The other day, I saw Jason Pollack say this on twitter:

Similarly, a few days later someone else (and I can’t recall exactly who) said - also on twitter - that if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face that you shouldn’t blog it. I would go so far as to say that even things you’d say to someone face-to-face should be measured very carefully before they are published online. Spoken words have a far different impact than written words.

This idea of online behavior matching real life behavior appeals to me strongly because it fits my personal practices. After an unpleasant experience this week, I’m more cognizant than ever about who I choose to interact with and how I behave in those interactions. I’ve always tried to treat others how I wish to be treated - regardless of where I’m interacting with someone. Of course I’m not perfect, but that is one of the things that makes me just like everyone else.

I recently had an altercation with someone on twitter that started out (I thought) as a discussion of different viewpoints that very quickly degraded to condescending cockiness and resulted in me being unfollowed.

Because I had a different opinion and expressed it. All over what I thought was a pretty innocuous discussion. It was very revealing of the character of this other person.

I have absolutely no problem with being unfollowed in general - it happens all the time. But I was pretty stunned at the sequence of events that led up to this particular instance. You see, I’ve had discussions on twitter countless times where I didn’t agree with another person, sometimes a whole group. I don’t hold it against them. I’m reasonably sure they don’t hold it against me either. We can each share our perspective with the knowledge that we will likely end the discussion with an agreement to disagree. Occasionally, one side or the other will bring up points that give others a new perspective to think about. I love when that happens - even when I’m the one thinking on a new perspective! To me, it’s not about a “winner” or a “loser” or being right. It’s about discussion of ideas and beliefs.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is the way that discussions of different viewpoints have gone for me. I genuinely like hearing other perspectives, even if I happen to disagree with them and it’s healthy to be able to debate with someone who holds a different view in an adult, mature and civil manner.

However, the ability to discuss maturely disintegrates when either side begins to think they are right. Period. In my experience, this leads to condescension and personal attacks that are unnecessary.

After having such an exchange this week, seeing Jason’s simple wisdom (and play on the Golden Rule), reminded me that caution in engaging online is crucial. When conversation begins to go down the road of becoming personal, it’s best to let it go entirely. If the other side is determined to be right, does it really matter that much? In my case, it didn’t matter at all, but I was having a bad day and I let myself get baited into replying anyway. When I saw that I was unfollowed by this person, it confirmed for me that they were not the type of person I want to associate with online - or anywhere else - and I unfollowed them as well. It was an easy decision since this was my first and only interaction with them. (What a first impression! They thought the same thing, obviously.)

I opened this post by saying that people often engage in behavior that is different than their real life persona in their interactions online. While that is true, sometimes I wonder which is truly the real person: the face they show people in real life or the one they show online.

Have you ever experienced this type of situation? What did you do? What’s your philosophy for online behavior?

The quickest way to lose my respect

I stumbled across a blog post tonight that pretty much infuriated me. I won’t link to it here, because I don’t want to indentify it. I’m also not going to share specifically what was said. 

In trying to get action or answers, the writer made some very judgmental and unfair statements about parents. Specifically, parents who choose to do things differently than the writer. As a parent who took that different track, I was shocked by the vitriol and negativity, especially in light of the blog’s purpose. 

What makes it worse is that I hadn’t ever visited this blog before, nor am I likely to return. All over an issue that shouldn’t even be directed at other parents, but it spilled over anyway.

I’m tired of the judgmental attitudes in parenting. This “I’m right. You’re wrong” mentality is exhausting and alienating. I get that there are strong views about every parenting topic under the sun, but when you start calling parents names and making assumptions about why they’ve made certain choices, you’re crossing into territory that I find objectionable.

It would be so nice to live in a world where parents can live side-by-side and not snipe at each other over these differing viewpoints. At the very least, it would be nice if each side would just try to understand where the other side is coming from.

But know this: If you make disparaging comments and generalizations about parents who do something you disagree with, you have automatically turned me off of your point of view. Even if you weren’t trying to argue your side of things in the first place, you will lose a follower and ultimately the opportunity to convert me to your way of thinking, too.

Bloggers need to watch what they say. Strong opinions are fine, but being disrespectful is not.

Hello, strangers!

In case you were wondering why my little corner of the Web has been silent of late, it’s not because anything bad is going on. I’ve just been busy with life in general and I’ve also been taking time to reflect on what I’m doing and what I really want. And how to accomplish what I want.

I haven’t figured all of that out completely, but it’s a process. I’ll get there.

I do have some good news that I was going to wait to share, but I don’t really want to wait and you will need to know anyway if you’re a subscriber so you can update your feed when it happens.

I’m moving!

Well, to be more accurate, Karen’s Chronicles is moving. To www.karenschronicles.ca. (But don’t try to go there now, because it isn’t live yet.)

Yep, I finally registered my very own domain.

When is this move going to happen? That’s a good question. I’m trying to pull together a blog redesign to coincide with launching my own domain, so it may take a few more weeks. In the meantime, I may be blogging a bit less. I figure I blogged enough in December to make up for my current slacker tendencies.

And, by the end of this weekend, I’ll have my 365 fully updated with the pictures that are still sitting on my SD card. And hopefully I’ll also have a couple posts finished up for next week, too!

I hope all is well with you!