Alright, so what will this blog be all about? Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure myself. It will cover a lot of ground and go on for quite some time. It's more than likely going to be pretty boring for most readers. While this might not be the best angle for a blog writer to take, I suppose that this entry will mostly be for myself. I'd love for others to read it, but I'm kind of looking at it as an exercise in reflection, and maybe even a bit of self-directed therapy. Please allow me to explain before I go totally off the rails and start REALLY rambling! And, now that I think of it, this post really IS going to ramble quite a bit. So, why don't I try to give it at least a little bit of a sense of structure. Let's split it up into three easy segments (which I probably won't completely stick to): The Past, The Present and The Future:
I started writing Monster Dad way back in 2010 when I left my job to stay at home with our two young daughters. I had never done anything like a blog before (and hadn't really even WRITTEN anything in general outside of school assignments) and it was kind of exciting to find a "creative" outlet that I could use to help me put my thoughts down on "paper" and kind of share the new experience of being a stay-at-home dad. Well, a stay-at-home dad who also really likes old monster movies and related stuff. I ended up writing a lot about myself as well as about the kids. It really did become a great place for me to express (even if mostly for myself) a lot of the nostalgic feelings I had about my childhood and how I wanted to share some of the magic of being a kid with my own kids.
Having never written much of anything or even being a "writer" per se, I found it exciting to give this new enterprise a shot and was kind of surprised to find that the ideas for blogs generally came to me pretty easily and I was able to turn many of the ideas in my head into actual blog posts. The first post on Monster Dad (Who is Monster Dad?) was published just over eight years ago on June 2, 2010 (EIGHT YEARS!). This State of the Blog Address was supposed to coincide with the anniversary of that post, but like usual, I'm late in getting around to it.
Once I got rolling I found that the writing part of the blog came relatively easily to me. Now, that's not so say that I'm a great (or even good) writer by any means, but I WAS able to write some stuff and publish it here on the blog. For me that was an accomplishment--even if nobody else would see it. Slowly I was able to kind of establish a style and managed to figure out a way to do a little SEO (search engine optimization) work to get the blog seen by a few people here any there beyond my little circle of friends and relatives. A couple posts even managed to find an audience. I wouldn't go so far as to say any of them went viral or anything, but some did manage to achieve hundreds--and in some cases even thousands--of hits per day at one point.
I was able to write on a pretty regular basis. From June 2010 through the end of the year I managed to get 23 posts published. 2011 was the first full year of Monster dad and remains my most productive year ever with 62 posts (that's more than one per week for the entire year!). In 2012 we moved from the small town where The Little Monsters were born to the big city (or at least just outside of a big city--Boston). I managed to write 35 posts that year, but that really was the "beginning of the end" as it were. Over the next five years (2013-2017) I only managed to publish a grand total of eleven posts. That's only about an average of two per year (and remember, I just mentioned that in 2011 I was writing an average of more than one post per WEEK). And that includes the fact that I wrote exactly ZERO posts in 2014. So what happened?
My definition of "The Present" here is probably a bit generous. I'm going to look at just what happened between 2013 and now that caused my not-so-recent lack of production and then try to look with a hopeful eye toward the future. Our move in September of 2012 was indeed a bit of a life-changing event. But to be honest, I should have actually had MORE time to continue writing Monster Dad than less. The Little Monster (elder daughter) was going into first grade and the following year The Beast (younger daughter) started preschool. I actually wound up with more time on my hands while still remaining a stay-at-home parent. So why DID the posts come to a sudden and almost complete stop? Did the novelty of writing the blog wear off? Did I find myself with a case of writer's block or burnout or some such thing? Did I simply lose interest and move on to other things, as seems to frequently be the case with some part-time bloggers? Well, no. The strange thing is that I am STILL to this day interested in writing these blog posts. I've had ideas in my head from 2010 that I've never managed to write down (type out) but which still bubble up from time to time just begging to be written about. And new ideas still pop into my head on a regular basis. Some stick in my head and some end up being forgotten about (hopefully only temporarily). To this day I still find myself taking a photo with my camera or phone with the idea that it will be part of a future post. And my mind still works in the same way when an idea pops into my head. I generally don't take any notes or sketch the framework of a post out (I suppose I'd probably be a better writer all around if I DID, but that's another story). I simply take the idea and basically "write" nearly the whole thing in my head before sitting down to type it out in the Blogger New Post window. Some changes are obviously made during the actual writing phase, but most of the ideas are fully fleshed out in my head before writing (typing) anything down. And that process has indeed continued over these past few (or more than a few) years. I simply haven't managed to get to the sitting down at the computer part that makes it all real. So I guess the good news is that the desire is still there. And that begs the question, just WHY am I NOT writing down and publishing all these brilliant ideas? Good question. And I'm happy to say that I actually have a pretty valid reason for most of that lack of output. And that reason has a name: YouTube.
Back when I first left my full-time job to stay at home with the Monsters full time I not only started writing Monster Dad (and later The TV Guide Time Machine--my even more neglected second blog), but also started throwing a few random videos up on YouTube to see if I would become the next viral video star (or at least have a video show up on America's Funniest Home Videos). Well, that didn't happen. But, at one point I decided to make a video about the military ration MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat). Strangely enough, some people watched it...and asked for more. I discovered there were people out there besides myself that had an interest in military rations. An audience grew and I found myself making more videos for the slowly but surely growing number of viewers. Eventually producing videos took precedence over writing blogs. That trend continues to this day (the channel currently has over 62.000 subscribers and 11 million total video views--numbers that dwarf anything at Monster Dad). The funny thing is that when I started making the videos I was still trying to concentrate on the blog. I reviewed one MRE on one of those days when the end of the world was predicted ("Judgment Day" or the "Rapture" of May 21, 2011). While it was a review of an MRE, I actually used it mainly to illustrate a blog post about the day called It's the End of the World as We Know it and I Feel Full. In fact, now that I think about it, there were a few of those early videos that were actually meant to be part of a blog post rather than being standalone videos on their own. These include one of my most watched videos (Using a Vintage Rotary Dial Telephone), which can be seen in the blog post Resurrecting the Past: Rotary Dial Telephone, and the video of the Monroeville Mall that appears in the post A Visit to the Monroeville Mall (Dawn of the Dead).
But it didn't take long for the MRE reviews to take on a life of their own. Suddenly all of my "free time" was spent filming, editing, posting and monitoring the stats of the YouTube videos. It was a rather sudden shift that I never consciously intended to happen. Filming ration review videos was a very different realm for me after all the writing I did about my kids and my own childhood. But I do have to say that (odd as it might sound) military rations have also been a lifelong interest for me. Once I got approved for Google AdSense (ads that appear before videos which generate revenue for both the advertiser AND the content creator) my switch to concentrating almost exclusively on the YouTube videomaking was complete. I should actually say that I was "re-approved" for AdSense after having my account disabled for a number of years. While I put the ads on both the YouTube videos and the blogs, the only real money generated was coming from the video side. And that more or less gets us up to date with "the present". There's a LOT more I could say here, but I can see this post growing and growing and I do kind of want to wrap things up before any readers find themselves falling asleep or cursing me for taking up such a huge chunk of their day. So, now we find ourselves looking into...
As with The Present, this section is kind of elastic. We'll definitely be touching on stuff from the past here as well as looking ahead. But I think the starting point for the future is indeed the present. And the state of the blog in this present time of June 2018 probably doesn't look very healthy (recall that 11 posts over five years stat?). Last month I posted a short blog that commemorated the fact that it had been a whole year since the last post! Why am I so energetically touting my lack of production? Well, it's because I honestly and truly WANT to be more productive. I'm sitting here writing a super-long blog post about how I never write any blog posts anymore. Let's wallow in the sad facts a little longer before (hopefully) wrapping things up on a good note.
The first State of the Blog post was written in all the way back in June of 2012. I commemorated the first anniversary of the blog with a Happy Anniversary post to it in 2011. In 2012 I decided to borrow the idea of a State of the Blog Address from the U.S. government. The idea was that I'd write one each year around the blog's anniversary to kind of hash out whatever was going on and update anything that seemed worth updating. But...that first address in 2012 (six years ago) was until now the ONLY State of the Blog Address I ever wrote. It's always one of those blogs that I mentioned are pretty much constantly in my head waiting to be typed into existence. I also remember writing Getting Around To It... back in August 2012. It was centered around the wood "Round Tuit" that my mom sent me when I was in the Army in the 80s to remind me to write home more often. I decided to use that bit of my history to inspire me to write more blog posts. That worked out well, eh?
One final thing to think about as I once again try to kickstart my writing is the fact that the Little Monsters were about six and three years old when I basically stopped writing. Six years later they're TWELVE and NINE! The main stated purpose of Monster Dad was to write about my experience raising the Monsters and relating stories about their childhood. Suddenly they're not such little monsters anymore. That's one of the things that I regret most about my unplanned hiatus. There are tons of stories about my own past that I want to write, and those can be written anytime. But childhood is a fleeting thing, and I can't believe how fast The Little Monsters are growing up and growing out of childhood. I covered my issues with the passage of time in one of my first posts all the way back in 2010 (Monster Dad vs. Time). I still have many issues with time and IF I can manage to get back into writing that will probably be a topic that will be revisited.
There have been a number of times when I genuinely wanted to restart the blog and make it a regular part of my life again. But it was just too easy to put it off with the intention to get to it "later". I have to say that "later" has to be now. The funny thing is that I'm actually in a transition phase in my life now where I'm looking toward the end of my time as a stay-at-home dad. Changes in employment status in our family and the fact that the Monsters are getting older have led to the point where I really need to get back into the working world on a full-time basis. So, as I'm stating my desire to write more I'm actually in the midst of a job search which, if successful, will leave me with LESS time to write than I've ever had since the inception of Monster Dad! But it's still something I want to do. Last month I found myself feeling incredibly helpless when I discovered that the subject of a blog I've been intending to write for at least five years had died. Jerry Maren was the last surviving Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz" (or at least the last of the "little people" that had portrayed Munchkins). I wrote about the Munchkins (in a way) in another of my early blogs (Unemployed Munchkins) in August 2010. When I found out that Ruth Duccini had passed away in January of 2014 I knew that it was time to finally write a blog about Jerry Maren which had been floating around in my head for a while. The significance was that when Ruth died, Jerry became the last of the Munchkins. I had a brush with him in 2006 that I always intended to write about. For four years he was the last of the Munchkins and I always intended to write about him while he was still alive. Every once in a while I'd Google him just to ensure that he was still with us. The blog I wanted to write was, once again, pretty much written in my head. But I never managed to get it written (typed) down. And now Jerry is gone. Sound familiar?
So here I am in June 2018, writing a post that I intended to write back in January when Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address. I've been wanting to write more for some time now. And I guess that I'm hoping writing this pitiful account of why I haven't been writing will help me to finally get "around to it". Will this attempt be successful? Only time will tell. The State of the Blog is...hopeful?