a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Mar, 2009

Measuring success

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

I’m reading a freebie book I picked up at the last Social Media Breakfast. I’m not too jazzed about the book. It’s called Blog Blazers. I was hoping for new insights into the world of blogging but the whole book consists of straight Q & A with “top” bloggers and no analysis.

Several of the questions had to do with success and how top bloggers measure success. There were a lot of different answers, but many understandably mentioned earnings and ad affiliates and unique visitors and RSS subscribers. I’ve been thinking this is all very well and good but I’m not a brand, I’m a person.

A couple weeks ago I received an email that has redefined my own definition of success. What’s more, it has reinspired me and made everything I’ve done here at the Fishbowl worthwhile.

I’m posting it here with permission because I hope it inspires some of you too:

Dear Andrea,

This email is quite overdue. My apologies. I need to thank you. I grew up in a household that was, well to put it mildly not particularly pleasant. So when summer was approaching last spring I was quite unsure how I was going to entertain my son who was 4 at the time. I didn’t want to farm him out to camps for the entire summer but I had little to draw on from my childhood.
My wife has little time off and I am a business owner so time is generally tight. I decided to take the lion’s share of the summer off leaving the business to my employees to run. Using many of your suggestions, my son had the best summer ever. So did I. We have hiked in Gatineau Park, gone frogging, fishing and generally kicked back in every wild space around Ottawa. We have gone to all the public beaches, built forts and painted masterpieces.
So all I can say is thank you. When you are ignored as a child you really have few good experiences to pass on to your children. I have 2 boys now and I am embarrassed to say that I have to research diligently if I want to be a good father. Unfortunately a quirk of heredity will likely not allow me to know my boys as men or as fathers themselves. I hope I am someone that they will remember.
Finally and apology for the anonymity. Although I am far from famous, I am somewhat known throughout the community.
I am forever in your debt.

[name of author removed]

I hope he knows what a great dad he is, and I hope his sons appreciate the effort he’s making.

14 Responses to "Measuring success"

1 | Loukia

March 3rd, 2009 at 8:50 am


That is so touching, Andrea, it gave me goosebumps. To help change someone’s life in such a positive way must feel so uplifting! Way to go! And yes, this man is a great father!

My mom, through her career as an artist, is able to touch people’s lives too. I remember reading letters she received from people who said to her that because she leaves the people in her paintings ‘faceless’ they are able to see themselves in them, and able to relate to a certain part of their childhood.

Other times parents will donate one of her paintings to the hospital their child was taken care of in. Many touching stories from many special people… makes me feel proud and happy at the same time.

2 | Lynn

March 3rd, 2009 at 9:21 am


That is such a lovely letter! And I must add, you have done similar things for our family. We’ve used many of your ideas and suggestions for activities and loved every one of them. You rock!

3 | Gwen

March 3rd, 2009 at 11:47 am


Love this! Amazing letter Andrea, a definate reassurance that you are doing the right thing. A few weeks ago you were feeling a little lost, glad you are back on track and that you know that giving us “a peek inside the fishbowl” inspires us in ways you don’t even know!

4 | LO

March 3rd, 2009 at 1:04 pm



5 | LO

March 3rd, 2009 at 1:04 pm


And on another note, how does one, especially a blogger, define ‘success’ to start with??!?! Hmmmmmmm:)

6 | Shannon

March 3rd, 2009 at 1:38 pm


That’s a beautiful e-mail, written for all the right reasons. It is inspiring, and I’m glad the reader took the time to write it and send it to you. Fantastic.

I’ve heard of that book and have been thinking about reading, just for interest’s sake. With the explosion of blogging in the past year or two, I feel that the way many bloggers measure their success has evolved. So many bloggers are going nuts on advertising, doing product reviews for ridiculous and useless products, and “pimping” themselves out for a quick buck . . . it sometimes make me wonder where the fun went. And while everyone has his/her own personal reasons for blogging – and I give kudos to people who are able to make money blogging – it is disappointing when people sell themselves short and lose their values in the process.

I am fairly new to your blog and love reading all your ideas and tips! Our three children are enrolled in NOTHING so it is important to us to do lots of family activities with them around the city on a regular basis. They love it and at ages 5, 3 and 1 they have seen and done a lot more in this region than kids twice as old as them.

7 | Shannon

March 3rd, 2009 at 1:40 pm


Pls excuse my lame typos – the 3 year old was helping me type and is not big on proof-reading!!!

8 | Loukia

March 3rd, 2009 at 2:21 pm


Shannon, my 3 and a half year old is also enrolled in nothing and I’m wondering if this is normal.. I know other parents have their kids in everything at this age, even skiing, and that is just scary to me – swimming lessons, we attempted last year but he was too shy… I don’t know, we do everything as a family, too, all the museums, etc… when is the right age to start putting kids in things? I think after the age of 4… and with a limit… like if you have a girl, I don’t think it right for her to be in dance class 3 days a week and soccer on the weekend and a lanugage class and a music class… seems like too much… sorry I’m rambling… maybe I should just blog about this!

9 | Nicole

March 3rd, 2009 at 11:04 pm


I have to agree with your anonymous emailer!
I can’t remember where I found your blog, exactly, but I know that I was googling things to do with children in Ottawa!
I’ve used so many of the great ideas you’ve posted and I am incredibly happy to have found your blog!!

Right before I’d found it I had almost enrolled my son in some programs at the community centre and although I know that they are a fantastic resource I just really love the chance to do things WITH him that are just as exciting for him as those things would be.

I am very thankful to have your blog as a resource for our fun!

10 | Sherry

March 4th, 2009 at 1:13 pm


That honestly made me cry. It’s so moving to see someone take a bad childhood and break the trend. I know he sounds sad that he has to “research” how to be a good parent but to me the simple fact that he is indeed trying to learn already makes him a wonderful father. I have no doubt his boys will have a far better memory of childhood than he did.

11 | BeachMama

March 4th, 2009 at 8:46 pm


Oh Andrea, thank you so much for sharing your letter. Anonymous’ letter brought me to tears and I pray that he is able to see his children grow and become fathers themselves, miracles do happen.

And to you, Andrea, Thank You for always sharing. Even if I don’t try all of your suggestions, I do love them it helps me remember that our wonderful city has so much to offer.

12 | Scatteredmom

March 7th, 2009 at 11:48 am


Andrea, that’s wonderful! It would make me cry! :)

:) Amazing.

13 | My last gift guide: Five things you can give to your favourite blogger >> a peek inside the fishbowl

December 22nd, 2012 at 10:37 am


[…] your style, give the gift of a thank-you in the form of a personal note to your favourite blogger. Here’s an email I received a few years ago. It is undoubtedly the best gift I have ever been given. In fact, it makes me tear up every time I […]

14 | Reflecting on 15 years of blogging >> a peek inside the fishbowl

May 10th, 2014 at 10:11 am


[…] has helped someone in a small way and make their lives a little sunnier. A few years ago I received this email and it’s always stayed with me. So thank you, anonymous person. And thank you to all the […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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