Valuable Land, Stiff Arms, and Inspiration – The Year In Review

gab-photo.jpgIt’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll…

The traffic and numbers speak for themselves. It’s still a long way to the top, or even the middle, for this little site that was started almost five years ago. The initial goal was to knock the rust off the writing tool, collect some thoughts, and commit fond memories to paper (screen) that could not be forgotten.

Hardly traffic building strategies.

But a funny thing happens when you write on-line like this. You make a couple of friends, your old friends and family members hop on board, and before you know it, you have an audience. And those people help you out.

Articles get shared, people take notice, and the traffic goes skyward. In review of this blog for the year 2012, it was the best one yet for traffic and article quality, which is not a coincidence.

The words continue to come from the heart. I couldn’t do it any other way.

2012 was a year for several very popular articles here at JAW. I’d like to say it was all about the excellence of the content, but I know I had some assistance along the way.  To those of you who shared, linked, commented, and most of all – read – thank you.

I Coulda Been A Contender

My favorite post this year, one that got substantial traffic numbers was The Most Valuable Land On Earth. It tied together two of my favorite stories with the foregone conclusion that life is short, your clock is burning down, so go ahead: live the life you want to. My friend Brian helped this post gain some ground by publishing the content at his site Brian Dodd On Leadership.

Many thanks to Brian.

It wasn’t the only post shared on another site. This year’s most popular article (in terms of traffic) is 6 Nuggets Of Financial Wisdom From The Old School, which shares details of how my immigrant grandparents handled their finances. This article got a little help from financial blogger Len Penzo, who graciously featured it in a weekly round-up this summer.

Len has a popular site. Needless to say, he made 6 Nuggets a popular read.

Craig McBreen also had a hand in inspiring a high traffic article. A while back, he wrote about the unplanned initial meeting with his wife in a nightclub, although he had no business being there. It’s one of the best posts at his site.

Hey! I’ve got a story like that one!!

Luck Be A Lady was born. It’s a memory that I’ll more than likely never forget, but just in case I do, I wrote it down.

Craig wasn’t the only one to inspire. I was forming sentences in my head as I read the words of prolific writers like Jack and Staci, who were also kind enough to stop by and comment on a regular basis. Words do indeed have power and significance.

It’s Not Just About The Numbers

There are posts that drove minimal traffic as well, but in the end, that doesn’t matter. Articles like Tougher Than The Rest or Thank You For Being A Friend put a lump in my throat and a chill up my spine as I’m writing them. And that’s the whole idea of this chore in the first place. To remember and pay tribute, and leave a part of yourself behind for all the world to see.

The Best of the Rest in 2012:

Happy Birthday. P.S. The World Needs You Here

The Immigrant Song – Inspiration Around Every Corner

Explaining Evil To Your Children

Joe Lied – And Why It Should Matter To You

Growin’ Up – Giving A Stiff Arm To The Face Of Life

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Writing From The Dark Side

In a past life, my wife would need to implore me to come back from my dalliance with “the dark side”. When I worked for a company I liked to call “The Evil Empire”, that was a place I visited on too frequent a basis. I was not the easiest person to live with.

However, that job is gone, and Happy Joe has been present and accounted for 99% of the time. But, I seem to be on a little of a dark side streak. Negative events in the media have prompted publication of the two most recent posts here, my related opinions of the Aurora mass murder and the cover up and subsequent betrayal by Joe Paterno.

The original intent of this site was to pay tribute to those closest to me: grandparents, godmother, members of my family and friends, sharing the life lessons they passed along to me. Which I consider a gift.

Chris Brogan had put it best: “Turn your lens on your family. Tell family stories for future generations.”

Although my last two posts approach what is quality content, I’m unsure if the stories fit here. I want a certain feel to each post or series of posts. I didn’t get that feeling.

Lens On The Family

I left a comment at Jack’s place after he published an excellent post about how certain smells trigger memory. As I read it, one memory of the smell of meatballs cooking in my kitchen as I’m frying them immediately brings me back to my grandmother’s house, the scenario always being the same: Early on a Saturday morning, running down the stairs in my pajamas, woken up by the scent of meatballs wafting through the halls.

And the ritual of being the first to get a meatball sample at the start of another weekend. Perfect blog fodder for whenever I decide to dispatch procrastination and just write it.

I’m not exactly sure why I would write about anything else, especially the topics of mass murder and pedophile supporters. There are more than enough people to comment and write about all the crazy in the world. I did it, and it felt like a chore. When I left that brief comment about smells and memory, it flowed. I know if I turn it into a full length post, that would flow as well.

This summer has not been all peaches and cream. I lost my best friend after his long struggle with Parkinson’s, and another very good friend of mine passed away suddenly at the age of 59, just two weeks later.

It’s said that once you hit a certain age that you start to attend more funerals than weddings, and it looks like I may be in that place. That’s one part of life where you wish you could roll back the clock.

Clocks notwithstanding, life’s frequent patches of darkness are more than enough to shed light on without going to the current events pages to handle that as well. Lessons to be learned.

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The Purpose Driven Blog: It’s All About Me, My Friend

I read frequently that the consensus to have a site that is popular, that people will read,  is to be helpful. A familiar buzz phrase is to publish “useful content”. Some writers will even go overboard and put an “insanely” in front of that phrase.

I know writers that do this well. When it comes to business and social media, my friends Marcus and Craig put out some great stuff. If I want to know how to effectively use email or Twitter to its full potential in a business context, a guy like Marcus can show me some ropes.

And although Marcus posts about business, he puts a lot of personality into those words. I’ve never met him off-line, but he comes across as one of the guys, someone I can sit down and share beers with.

Over at his website, Vince publishes excellent food related content in the format of easy, simple to prepare recipes accompanied by mouth watering photos.

His philosophy is simple. It’s easy to eat well at home, without the bloated prices and caloric content of a restaurant.

He’s right. I’ve saved thousands of dollars in the “dining out” category of my budget by following this principle. Reading Vince has helped me do this.

That’s what I call helpful content.

I set out to do the same with my posts, the intentions are there. But, the content that I write that I most identify with are the posts that are about my concerns. Whether it’s about me, my wife and kids, or other members of my family, what I write really has nothing to do with the reader.

It’s all me, me, me.

And according to many ‘experts’, without the ability to help your reader, your content fails.

I will try to keep the reader in mind with future posts. But I know the only way I have been helpful to you (if at all) is purely by accident. By creating feelings of how great it is to be a parent, or to recreate that glow of growing up in the 70s and 80s (What an era!).  🙂

Really though, it’s all about me.

I need to prop up my ability to remember. Man, the memory goes, and it can go quick. Take the aforementioned 70s – 80s. Those images used to be crystal clear in my mind, in full color, with the voices of my grandmother and other family sharply present.

Now, everything looks grainy, with that color a little washed out, and faded. Memories  become less vivid. I want to try to put a halt to that. This blog should help keep memories alive.

This reason is my number one. Whether it’s a post about my godmother, reflecting on a kitchen coffee ritual from the past, or remembering saying goodbye to my mentor, the written word can take what you might have forgotten and bring it all rushing back.

The blog can also act as a great resource for my kids. As my friend Jack mentioned in a comment recently, my children may want to read these words. Why not?

When the time comes, they can think back to a breath taking end to an epic baseball game, the relaxing summer days spent on the lake in their youth, or an unforgettable trip to New York City.

All that will be here waiting.

Yes, it would be nice if I could give you some social media tips or post content that is more business friendly. But that’s not the direction I’m interested in taking. I have a different purpose.

If you read this far, and you’re still sticking around, thank you. I’m here to build a library of words that my kids may appreciate years from now. But I think you can take away a little appreciation as well.

And who knows? Maybe, in the end, some of this may even be…helpful.

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Two Years Later, And The Best Is Yet To Come

I published my first post here two years ago, On Writing, With A Comeback Twist not really knowing what to expect. I thought the internet was a magical thing that, with a wave of a wand, would bring me a flood of readers.

What it did bring, in the words of my friend Marcus Sheridan, was crickets. That sound you hear late at night, when nobody’s around and it doesn’t look like any one is coming.

But that was OK, looking back. I wrote and hit “publish” just because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted a little project outside of my paid “work”. Something that gave life a little more juice.

In other words, I wrote for myself first. If someone found me and wanted to read, awesome. But I was writing for them second.

Things have changed a bit, and I’ve learned how to share my writing, as well as others’ work, through social media. Readership has grown, and I have made some friends and connections from writing here at this site.

I hate to use the word “passion”, as it’s a term that seems so overused these days. But I knew I was on the track to something when I hit publish and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I’ve deviated at times from the subjects that I set out to write about in the beginning. You need a new topic every once in a while to keep things fresh. The original goal is still the same, however.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. My biggest influences growing up were Italian immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. My grandmother, grandfather, and my godmother. Old School inspiration.

My Dad with my grandparents, Rose and Sebastian DeGiorgio, circa 1946

It is my very firm opinion that the America of 2011 could learn a lot from the immigrant generations that preceded those of us that were just getting started twenty or thirty years ago.

If you have known me for any length of time, my job here is to remind you of these cornerstones of my life, and make sure you don’t forget them.

If for some reason you are brand new, then let me make the introductions. If I do my job right, they are people you won’t soon forget.

From the last two years, here are some of the best:

The Last Sicilian, And The Gift Of Tradition

Reflections on Memorial Day And A Salute To A Soldier Long Gone

Thoughts On Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, And Stone Cold Winters

Absolute Requirements of the Italian Kitchen

“Life Is Precious”, Epilogue

Memories Of My Grandfather

I’ve really enjoyed myself posting to this site for the last two years. I think, with the help of Gabrielle the guest poster, we’ll have much more content ready to go in the months to come. Although I began just “writing for myself”, nowadays I appreciate new readers stopping by to check it out. You can help with this by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to spread the word. Thanks!

The Fire And The Freedom: A Guest Post

I’m 48 years old. Suddenly my life is flying by at hyper speed.

When I was a boy, then a teenager, the days, the weeks, the months were long. Summers spent playing ball and hanging out with friends seemed like they lasted forever. Time stood still after the school year was done, and we did the things that set us free.

Remember Ferris Bueller, and that movie’s most famous quote?

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

After my wife and I were married, and my daughter was born, time stood still there as well. I could not imagine her as anything but an infant.

Pretty fast. Yeah, like lightning fast.

Now, the power of youth for me has taken a rest stop, and I’m the father of a teenager. I’m staring her college years square in the face, and I want to run the other way. Sinatra once crooned about the autumn of his years, but no one ever informed me about how rapidly the season’s colors change when you have kids.

I’m in denial because I still feel like a kid myself.

But there’s an upside to me (and my kids) getting older.

My daughter is smart, witty, and quick on (and with) her feet. She is learning to play guitar, is an aspiring photographer, and already is a talented artist. And she writes. She writes from her gut and plays with her words like they’re her toys. I planned on posting her writing here someday, when I thought she may be as good as Dad.

Who am I kidding. Someday is here.

This is your work, Gabrielle. About the freedom, fire, and the passion that you already see at your young age. I’m proud to share…


fire is simple. it creates warmth and comfort. but also massive destruction. fire breathes and sighs as its handler effortlessly turns its energy into entertainment. i dont know why this dawned on me last night. while i was surrounded by joyful pyros playing with death by eating and spinning the flames, but it did remind me of the very first time i had ever seen this with my own eyes.

it was last fall, the night air was freezing everywhere else, but as soon as i stepped into the circle of fire it was warm, hot almost. i couldnt tell whether it was the fire or the extraordinary people. my first thought these people are insane! or suicidal! and i couldnt figure out why, i, someone who burned myself multiple time in earth science class, was here. i shouldve been home studying or watching tv. I began to watch the spinners, my eyes focused on the fire, trying to distract myself from the lingering ache i had deep in my gut, it wasnt until i began to get up close and video tape my friend jake while he twisted and turned the fire around himself and then me as i closed in with my mother’s cell phone that took videos.

At first i just wanted a video of this fire, coiling around us like a snake, when i caught the face of my friend. free. happy.and emitting some sort of magical energy that seems childish. When i sat back down i studied the other pyros faces. all wearing the same happy free childish face. I realized that was the magic of this place, what drew all these extraordinary people here. it wasnt the fire. it was the freedom. and that was the last time i ever saw the fire spinners. until last night.

as i stepped into the square last night, i hid behind my own freedom. my camera. this time i wasnt looking for the eye catching fire and multiple colored balls that would fly through the air all night, i was looking to somehow capture the mood here, in these people, in my photos somehow. it was hotter then i remember it to be, and louder. everybody was laughing or playing the bongos or playing with fire. i took pictures from every angle i could, yet i couldnt grasp with my camera what i saw with my eyes. maybe i wasnt doing it right. i soon caved in  and sat next to my friends whom i hadnt seen in quite some time, and gabbed on with the three of them for most of the night. in one of those awkward moments of silence, i knew the reason why my camera couldnt capture the energy around this place. my camera (although its my baby) couldnt see like humans do.

and what was here is that these people found their weekly escape. their passion. their freedom to be themselves. which is seen very little now a days, since everyone just cares about the money or how many things they have to make them ‘happy’. but this was happy. so please reader, if you are the average joe, stop it. wheres the freedom and your passion? hell, i dont know, go out and find it. while you do that, i will hide behind my camera, and try to capture what i see.

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