7 Months: Watching my Daughter Grow

My daughter is 7 months today. If you’ve never had a child, let me tell you: babies get really interesting around the 5–6 month mark. I wish I thought about doing this log right in the beginning, though I feel like the entries would have been similar until now. Let me catch you up real quick.

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What are You Passionate About?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently that lead me to ask myself that very question. I’ve written about passion on occasion and have a general idea of what I’m passionate about, but the question struck me differently this time. I think it’s because the question wasn’t asked of me outright. It was posed this way:

…find something you passionately want to teach…

I started thinking about what I passionately want to teach and you know what? I came up empty. I’ve always taken a “demand-based” approach to teaching?—?if someone needs a course on something, I can make that course. I certainly bring passion to the classroom because I’m passionate about teaching. But what is something that I feel I need to teach? It’s a question I’ve been pondering since last week.

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Thoughts from the book Essentialism

My summer of books is going pretty well so far; I’ve finished 4 and am 1/2 way through 5, which is my first fiction book of the summer. Last week at the beach, I flew through Essentialism, which I was excited to read. The general idea of the book is to make yourself an essentialist by saying Yes to the things you truly want to do, and no the things you feel like you have to for whatever reason. The short of it is I highly recommend the book. Here are some of my takeaways.

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Smoking Cigars with my Grandfather

I guess this is technically my first cigar.

This past June was the 8th anniversary of 2 significant events in my life:

  1. My grandfather (Pop, pictured above circa 1989) passed away.
  2. I started smoking cigars.

I thought about this while I was walking around my back patio last Friday, in silence, smoking a cigar. It reminded me of an iconic scene [in my mind] of Pop standing stoically in his long, steep driveway, smoking White Owl cigars. I’m told in his younger days he’d smoke much bigger ones while working construction in the city (New York City) after he came here.

Second Generation Immigrant

I, like perhaps many my age or older, am a Second Generation Immigrant by definition. Pop immigrated here in 1949 when he was just 19 years old.

He’s perhaps the reason I’m such a proud Italian. It was nothing overt he ever did — Pop was never overt about anything really — just having a close connection to such a historical country is what did it for me. It’s the reason I’m so interested in the culture, and country in general. I love being an Italian-American. It’s the reason I want to learn Italian.

When I was about 12 years old I had to interview him for a school paper; I asked him a bunch of canned questions about Italy and how and why he came over. If only I could redo that today with the perspective I have. I’ll never forgot what he told me when I asked what it was like living under Mussolini when I was in my 20s: “Mussolini did a lot for the country. He just got in with the wrong crowd.”

2 Wishes

The other day, when I thought about Pop, I also thought of 2 wish I also have as a result of that time.

The first is about the weekend before he passed. On that Saturday, my mom told me that I should go visit him since I hadn’t seen him in a while.

My brother Phil with Pop in 2009

I decided to put it off until Monday because I was going to be near his house anyway, so I could stop in and stay for a little longer before heading back to Scranton, which is where I was living at the time.

I didn’t get that chance. I don’t quite remember the exact time, perhaps the very early hours of Monday morning, but I was in a deep sleep when my brother Robby came into my room. He woke me up and told me Pop passed away an hour or so ago. I was filled with shock, followed by sadness, followed very quickly by regret.

I wish I had just gone to see him on Saturday when my mom told me to.

It was a bit sudden; none of us knew Pop was sick, if he was. Heck, he didn’t even bother his wife that night. He just said he was going to bed. That was Pop in a nutshell…he didn’t want to bother anyone if he didn’t have to.

Pop’s Final Stash

The 4 of us with Pop at Robby’s Communion

When Pop passed away, my brothers and I had the task of clearing out his stuff. There was a lot of great things — family history, knick knacks from a full life, and of-course, his last stash of cigars: 10–12 White Owls.

The 4 of us each smoked one that day. It was my first cigar, though I had puffed on one or two in the past.

My Start into Cigars

It was an activity I really enjoyed. Just my brothers and I talking about Pop, bonding and enjoying each other’s company. We would do the same thing in November of that year, on what would have been his 80th Birthday. It snowed but I didn’t really care.

I actually had smoked my first premium, broadleaf cigar a couple of weeks earlier for my own birthday. This was my first foray into cigars and I never stopped. I still have 2 of his cigars actually. I had one on me when I got married.

I actually owe a lot to cigars. Many of the connections I forged with people in the WordPress community, my previous full time job, friends all over the country; even though Pop isn’t alive today, I feel the effects he’s had on my life. This brings me to my second wish:

I wish I got into cigars a little sooner so I could have smoked with him, at least once.

I know each of my brothers think of Pop pretty frequently. He was our last grandparent to pass away and the one that we were closest with, likely due in part to him seeing us make it into adulthood.

I think of him almost every time I smoke a cigar because it’s such a pleasure in my life that has brought me a lot of joy, friendship, and even success in my career.

As a matter of fact, I think I’ll smoke one now. Thanks Pop.

Smoking Cigars with my Grandfather was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


An Open Letter to My Daughter

Hey Little One (as Grandma Casabona so lovingly calls you),

I can’t believe you’re due in a week. To say this time went quickly is a bit of an understatement. In some ways it doesn’t quite feel real yet. But when I start to have that thought, I look at your mother, and I see you move, and I’m reminded how very real you are. I can’t wait to meet you.

I was never one for public outpouring of emotions. I actually like to think that I’m a pretty stoic person; everyone who knows me will tell you otherwise. But I do want to get some thoughts down in the waning days before my entire worldview changes (and you know, I’m low on sleep). Please bear with me; some of this will be cliche*.

*Ha! Since you’re new to the world, this won’t actually be cliche to you. Score one for Dad.

Every parent will have these predisposed notions of what they hope their kid will be. I’ve read that mothers will have a more concrete picture in their head of what their baby will look like. Right now, I just picture generic baby(tm). But I do think that you’ll be a Yankee fan, and a Star Wars fan. I think you’ll be outgoing like me. I think you’ll get all the best features of both your mother and me. I know it won’t be like that (except for being a Yankee fan, natch). And I won’t be disappointed because of it. There are some things I do hope and want for you, though.

I want you to be yourself.

Most people who know me know I’m not shy about my opinions. That I don’t fly off the handle, but I’m also not willing to back down and assert myself when necessary. It took me a long time to get there — well into college.

I hope that we teach you the difference between right and wrong. Armed with that knowledge, I hope you become the type of person your grandparents raised your mother and I to be. And because of that, I hope you’re never ashamed to be who you are. You will be challenged, and you will be wrong sometimes (more than sometimes if you’re like me). But at your core, I hope you know who you are. Being wrong isn’t all that bad, as long as you handle it the right way. It’s up to me to teach you that, too.

Don’t be Afraid of Experiences.

Your mother and I are going to have to do this balancing act that I know Gram and Gramps Casabona did preposterously well: we’re going to have to encourage you to do things while also sheltering you appropriately for your age. But the main take away is that I hope you cease the moment and opportunities that are presented to you.

When I was in High School, I was given the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Italy and Ireland for $900 — a ridiculously small amount of money, even by 2003 standards. I didn’t take it, and remember saying, “I can look at pictures on the internet.” I’ve since rectified that, going to both Ireland and Italy and spending 2 weeks in each place. But I hope you don’t have that same mindset.

You will Make Mistakes.

…and that’s OK. Mistakes are great. They make us who we are. They are perhaps the best way to learn. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 31 and a half years. Not terrible life-ruining mistakes, mind you. Just little mistakes; misjudgements. Saying the wrong thing. Choosing not to do something when I should have chosen to do it.

Learn from your mistakes. Remember that every moment is a learning moment. If you do that, I’ll try to remember that every moment is a teaching moment.

Be Respectful.

If you’re anything like me, there will be people you’ll disagree with. They will be your peers, your teachers, your bosses, your elected officials, and your parents. It’s OK to voice your opinion — it’s why the first thing I told you is to be yourself. But remember that even when you disagree, you should be respectful. It will get you much more mileage than being a jerk. Trust me on that one.

We Will Always Love You.

Why am I telling you all this, even though you won’t be able to read it for a few weeks?

(Right? I still am not quite sure what I’m doing…I’m being told it’s more than weeks.)

I’m telling you this so I remember it. Because there will be times where things get difficult for all of us. Perhaps in my quest to make you the most spoiled girl on Earth, I’ll miss teaching you an important lesson. Perhaps in my anger, I’ll lose my cool and not communicate in the best way. But I need you to know, no matter what, your mother and I will love you. It’s up to us now, to teach you the things that we hope for you. If we do half as well as your grandparents, you’ll be in good hands.


Your Father

An Open Letter to My Daughter was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


What Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Broadcast tells us about Media Today

Img src: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLOr4RyuT6E

Have you heard of Today I Found Out? It’s one of my new favorite YouTube channels, and the folks there put out great content 6–7 times a week. They are great videos about a wide variety of topics from history, to medicine, to science fiction. Today I came across this one, called The War of the Worlds Mass Panic (That Never Happened):


I encourage you to watch the video because it’s great, but I’ll provide some background info.

The War of the Worlds Mass Panic

In 1938, Orson Welles did a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ popular book, The War of the Worlds, where beings from Mars come to Earth and promptly attack us. You can listen to the broadcast here.

What made it interesting was that it wasn’t just a reading of the book over the radio. It was reworked as a series of news broadcasts, reporting as if the attack was happening in real time. Interesting stuff! The story today is the broadcast was so believable that it caused mass hysteria because people tuning in thought we really were being attacked by Mars. Here’s the front page from the NY Times the day after the broadcast:

Pretty wild right? Who would ever believe something just because they heard about it on new media (more on this later!).

The Mass Panic Never Happened

As you may have guessed from the title of the video, the mass panic never happened. Most people knew it was fiction and the broadcast actually mentioned it was a few times throughout.

While a few people did call the NJ police department (New Jersey is where the broadcast took place), there was not chaos in the streets and no one was hurt. The video also points out that ratings for the live show weren’t even that good. So what happened?

The Newspapers Lied

The newspaper industry had quite a bone to pick with the new medium of radio.

That’s right! The newspapers had a bias and used this opportunity to slander radio. Here’s a quote by the NY Times about radio:

Screen from Today I Found Out

The video also points out that using words like “War” and “Terror” would sell more papers. Clickbait, before clicks.

It makes sense, in a way. Newspapers were trying to get a leg up over radio because it was new and sexy and taking away advertisers. This part really resonated with me because we see the same exact patterns in news today, almost 100 years later. But it was something else that really caught my attention.

Orson Welles’ Opinion About Radio & Television

Screen from Today I Found Out

The above screenshot is a partial quote from Orson Welles about how the general public treated radio and TV. I want to call out this part:

…but when the radio came, and I suppose now television, anything that came through that new machine was believed.

Sound familiar? We treat radio and TV news the same way folks in the mid-1900s treated newspapers, and we treat Social Media as they treated radio and TV: anything that comes through is to be believed.

Both groups have some justification right? With radio and TV, not just anyone could get onto it, so 1930s you would assume the information is vetted & therefore true. Today, we feel social media gives us a first hand account of what’s happening, and there is no source better than a primary source.

The end of that quote is pretty great too:

We wanted people to understand that …they shouldn’t swallow everything that came through the tap…

The Lesson: Not too much changes, and we can learn a lot from historical perspective

It’s really easy to say what’s happening now is “unprecedented” and that the type of backlash we’re seeing on social media is brand new — that Fake News is more rampant today than it’s ever been.

But here’s a fantastic example of newspapers perpetuating false news for their own gain, and a commentary on how people consumed the new media of the day.

I talked in a previous post about how we can combat Fake News. I think we should also take what Welles said to heart. Don’t swallow everything that comes through the tap. Don’t believe everything you read, whether you want to or not.

What Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Broadcast tells us about Media Today was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


How I’m Staying Organized in 2017

It’s no secret I love stationary. I recently posted a photo of the above notebooks on Instagram and a grammar school friend remembered my affinity for pads and pens even then; she told a story of how I convinced her to buy this cool troll pen at a book fair in first grade.

I’m also constantly looking for ways to stay organized and keep on task. I need to because I have a lot of irons in the fire:

  • I have a full time job
  • I’m developing online courses for myself and others
  • I host a weekly podcast
  • I have 2 blogs
  • I have a baby girl on the way

I need a few tools to make sure I don’t lose track of what I need to do and when. There are a few tried and true tools I use, and a couple of new ones I’m trying this year.

Bullet Journaling

This was a system I discovered a few years ago thanks to one of my favorite podcasts, The Pen Addict. It shows you how to keep track of monthly, weekly, and daily tasks, lists, and much more. It gives you a dead-simple system of icons and indexing to keep everything straight. And the best part is it’s fully customizable.

I’ve customized the system a bit over the years through some trial and error, but here’s what I’ve settled on:

I use the Leuchtturm1917 Dotted. It’s the recommended one, as well as a great notebook.

At the front of the notebook, I’ll have a section where I transfer notes from old to new, add lists & collections, and goals for the year.

I will have dedicated pages to Months, Work Weeks, and Weekends. I use something else for daily tracking.

I’ll try to keep note-taking to a minimum, but I will add lists and more organized ideas, noting the pages in the index.

I try to keep the same notebook all year, & the end of 6 months, I’ll “reset” — add a blank page, then new goals and collections.

I’m a huge fan of this system. It’s a nice way to not only keep track of my monthly and weekly tasks, but look back every few months and see what I’ve accomplished, and what I still need to accomplish.

Field Notes

Since I don’t always have my bullet journal on me, but still prefer writing notes in a notebook, I always have a Field Notes Brand notebook in my back pocket. These things get pretty beat up, but they are great for quick notes and sketches.

Hobonichi Techo

In the photo above, you may notice that I have 2 notebooks. The bottom one is my Bullet Journal. The top one is my Hobonichi Techo; this is a smaller page-a-day planner that I’ve been clamoring to get for a while. I finally pulled the trigger this year.

Photo from the Hobonichi Store

These planners are made by a company in Japan and they are of great quality and size. I was actually a bit worried I’d find the book too small (it’s an A6) but it’s just right!

Because it’s important for me to track daily tasks, appointment, and hours (as in, time I spent working on something), I wanted a planner than gave me a little more rigidness than bullet journaling. I wanted to easily lay out hours on pages clearly marked by day for easy reference. I’ve started using this for the Daily Plan Bar that Mike Rohde wrote about in December. I’ve really enjoyed how sturdy and compact the planner is. My only wish is that it had a bookmark like the Leuchtturm1917.

Finally, there are lots of cool covers and accessories for it. Right now I’m using just the planner, but it’s nice to know that if I wanted a case, I have options.

The Hobonichi website is a little confusing, so here’s an Amazon link to the planner.


I love me some pens. Here’s a short list of the ones I like to use:

Bear Notes

As far as digital tools go, Bear Notes is my favorite note taking app. It’s available for iOS and MacOS, and it’s beautiful. It’s easy to use, it syncs quickly, and it’s relatively cheap. I’m a big fan.


image from Fantastical website

I rely heavily on my calendar from day-to-day and of everything I’ve used, Fantastical is the best. The desktop app is a bit pricy ($40) but worth it in my opinion. It integrates well with both Google and MacOS, and it’s companion iOS app is great.


Related is perhaps my favorite new tool, Calendly. It’s a web-based scheduling app that makes setting up appointments super easy. I use it for scheduling guests for my podcast as well as consults and other conversations I might be having. Connect your calendars, set available times, and send out a link to anyone who wants to schedule time with you. Calendly will adjust for time zones, follow-up with both you and the person you’re meeting with, and add the event to both of your calendars.

So Far so Good!

This system has been great so far. The Hobonichi Techo has been a great addition to my workflow, and Calendly has been a game changer for me. I absolutely love it.

What tools are helping you stay organized? I’d love to hear about them!

How I’m Staying Organized in 2017 was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Reading Update: The Expectant Father

I finished reading the first of my 2 January Reading books on Friday: The Expectant Father. It’s a book that touts being the “ultimate guide for Dads-to-be” and as a Dad-to-be that knew very little about the role, I really appreciated how thorough it was.

It takes the pregnancy month-by-month, telling you what’s going on with Mom, the baby, and possibly you. It is chock full of advice for how to handle certain situations (and how not to), and some of the most important things you can do as a soon-to-be father, but also as the most important asset to your partner. It helped me put things in perspective, gave me some great advice, and happily, confirmed I’m doing the right thing most of the time.

The most valuable stuff for me came at the end: the birth, what happens, what can happen, and what happens after. The birthing class Erin and I are taking covered some of this, but reading helped it stick.

What Happens After?

The thing I’m most nervous about is what to do after the baby is born. How do I play with her? What if I’m too rough? How soft is that soft spot? Will I know what to do, when I need to do it?

What if I’m not prepared for this at all?

I’ve never held a baby younger than 2 months old, and even that was recent — my friend Katie’s son. I was very nervous I was going to break him because he’s so small (I did not).

The book assured me that every dad asks these questions, which I kind of already knew in the back of my mind. It also answered some of the questions and talks about baby’s first few weeks in the world. The author also plugs his next book, The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, a lot. I was a little put off by this. However, as an author myself I understand for 2 reasons:

  1. Man’s gotta eat
  2. There’s so much content, there’s no way he could fit it all in a single book

I don’t necessarily feel I was shortchanged, and he does prepare me a bit. But a little more wouldn’t hurt.

Highly Recommended

All-in-all, I highly recommend it. I have lots of dog-eared pages to revisit a little closer to the due date, and conversations to have with my wife.

I also learned a lot of fascinating things (did you know babies can differentiate between their parents’ voices around 30 weeks?). The author mentions that a lot new dads can feel amazement at what a woman’s body can do, and that’s completely true. I’m also amazed at what babies in-utero know and do instinctively. Creating life is a crazy and wonderful thing.

Reading Update: The Expectant Father was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Some Thoughts on Fake News that You’ll Never Believe!

Man. I don’t feel good about that click baity headline. But maybe it caught your attention. It must have since you’re reading.

Earlier today I wrote a bit of a tweetstorm about the state of fake news and how to combat it. Truth be told, I don’t think there is a way to stop it. But more on that later.

Fake News isn’t some new thing

First things first: Fake News isn’t new. The Daily Show is over 20 years old. The Onion, a very popular (and obviously fake) news outlet has been around since 1988. According to this article by Politico* it started around the time of the Printing Press.

Here’s the thing: People lie. A lot. For whatever reason. Maybe they don’t want to get in trouble (“I didn’t break the chair!”). Maybe they want to push an agenda (**Partisan Statement that turned out to be a lie**). Lies are as old as time itself*. They will definitely make their way into the news.

People Believe what They want to Believe

It’s a bigger issue today because information travels fast — really fast. And you can find any information you want on anything, so it’s easy to backup your claims using any old link. This brings me to my next point: people believe what they want to believe, no matter what.

It’s part of the reason arguing with [dad/brother/uncle/coworker/rando on Twitter] is so frustrating. You’re not going to change the hearts and minds of most people. It’s kind of sad, but it’s true. It’s really up to big media organizations to make sure we get real news. However…

Ad Money > The Truth

The truth is news organizations need to make money, and ads are still the best way to do it. And for ads to work, people need to view the pages with ads on them. And to get page views, you need to write things people want to read and share. And this will be easier if you’re confirming what people want to believe.

So organizations write click-bait headlines, bury the lead, and hope people will react to the less than truthful part of the story, for the sake of more eyeballs and misinformation.

But that’s a real problem because organizations need to make money to operate and still make good quality content. So what do we do?

Find a Better Revenue Stream

This one is tough, because if not ads, then what? You’ll get people who want to fund you with “quid pro quo” money or memberships that have the same effect. “We’re paying you, so write what we want you to write.”

Get Government Funding

Do you really think this one will happen? And if it does, how many people will actually trust it?

We Need to Form Better Habits

The only real solution to combat Fake News is to make smarter people, and there’s no quick fix for that. We need to take our current process:

  1. See Headline
  2. React
  3. Share

And change it to this:

  1. See Headline
  2. Read Article
  3. React
  4. Research
  5. Share

I know that asks a lot, but what I’m really getting at is this:

Train yourself to be a skeptic.

Most importantly, we need to start (if we haven’t already) teaching this sort of critical thinking in schools, from a young age. I’m not saying make kids cynical, but critical thinking is important in an age of information overload and opinions flying as freely as pollen in the springtime. We need to show them how to read and research, and to do that we’ll need to practice what we preach.

*I didn’t separately research this. Could be fake!

Some Thoughts on Fake News that You’ll Never Believe! was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Running 12 Months Ago vs. Running Today

Right before the Walt Disney World 2016 Half Marathon

A year almost to the day, I wrote a post on my (then only) blog called The Curious Thing About Running. I was fresh off my second half marathon and while it was difficult, I was excited to complete a challenge that required both physical and mental toughness. As a matter of fact, I said that very thing:

The curious thing about running is this: it’s a challenge that’s both physical and mental. That means completing the physical gives you an immediate high — that endorphin high I was talking about. But once that goes away, you’re left with a different high. It’s the high you feel by knowing that you’re mentally tough enough to run a distance you’ve never run before…

And that is definitely true. But a funny thing happened after that. See, I live in the Northeast, and it was January. And the Northeast in January is cold. And running in the cold is pretty high up on my “things I least want to do” list.

Plus, I was getting married in less than 6 months! There was so much to do!

Did I mention it was cold?

I kind of fell off the wagon of running. Sure I had all of these amazing thoughts and feelings. I got pretty emotional after that race, and since then I’ve run a 10K and attempted another half, but it didn’t work out. I stopped training.

Turns out you can’t take a 10 month break from running and expect to just get back into it. Running is not riding a bike.

Post-race 2016. I promise I’m happier than I look.

The very thought of running right now is not unfathomable, but it’s definitely not high up there on my list of things to do. I lost that mental toughness that I was talking about.

So What Now?

So what now indeed. The excuses can keep coming, if I so desire:

  • But I have so much work to do.
  • I have a baby coming in less than 2 months!
  • It’s still January! SO COLD.
November 2016, before a shorter but decidedly harder race.

After I couldn’t do the last half marathon I attempted, I beat myself up…a lot. I couldn’t believe I failed at something I was so sure I’d be able to do. But then you know what I did? I went back to doing nothing about it. It’s way easier to be mad at yourself for a short amount of time than to commit to a several months long process.

My brother Rob, Erin S., and Dave after the last half.

To be honest, I think my wife is a little relieved that I’m not running long distances in the shape I’m in. At 257 lbs, distance running is rough on everything. So I need a new plan.

Finding that Mental Toughness

I want to get that feeling back — the one I felt after completing the last half marathon. This past weekend had me thinking a lot about it because it was the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.

I need to devise a plan that starts with easing my way back into running, along with weight loss. Sure, I’ve been walking a lot more. I’ve been eating better. Those are the physical hurdles I need to overcome in order to be able to run 13.1 miles again, this time without worrying my friends and family.

But I also need to find that mental toughness.

Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical. -Yogi Berra

I love that quote from Yogi Berra, and not only because it’s one of his most famous Yogisms. I think it can be said of a lot of challenging activities. You need to commit yourself to it, both mentally and physically. You need to give 140%. That’s more than the normal 110% you hear about.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I will find that mental toughness I need. There’s a lot of other things I’d rather do with my free time besides running. Good thing I have a good support system. You can see some of them in the photos above.

But I know I want to. Now I just need to.

Running 12 Months Ago vs. Running Today was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.