Make Memories

October 31, 2009

When it comes to friendships, I feel like I have a number of people in my circle that I feel comfortable enough to pick up conversations months (or years) after we’ve last spoken. Last night I spoke to my friend Chuck, and we talked online for 2 hours as if the past 10-15 years never came between our last in person talk. How you develop these kids of people in your life takes a genuine interest outside of any personal needs and really seeking to know and understand what’s going on in the other person’s life.

I’ve been fortunate enough that I have many different circles of friends and people based on my interests. As a result of having a common bond with music, with bowling, with writing, with adoption, with sports, etc.- I feel it’s easier to get to know all about the total person, and hopefully be introduced to something new, fresh and exciting. I love hearing what’s going on with other people- how they got into their career choices, how their family and friends are doing, what they want to accomplish in the future, where they see themselves headed.

It’s tougher for me at work to create these bonds, as I work solo in my particular department. I’ve been able to develop smaller contact with people on my shift that float around my work station, in bite sized 15-20 minute portions. Being that we all have our own responsibilities at the hospital, I rarely gain the chance to socialize with them outside of the work setting. I think it’s taken me longer to get to know many of my hospital co-workers, but I still believe in making the effort, as we all work together as a team to make our workplace special.

Making memories to me involves caring, concern for the other people, and the desire to step outside of yourself for the sake of a good relationship. If you monopolize 80% of the conversation to talk solely about yourself and your life, many people become disinterested and feel like they are talking to a wall. We have two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a definite purpose- we must pay attention attentively in order to retain and process what we’ve heard. There’s nothing worse than humans feeling like they have to repeat basic information 2-3 times within a short conversation.

In this busy life we lead, be sure to take time for friendships and unhurried conversations. If you feel fear about developing relationships, seek out extra help from sources like Toastmasters International or books like How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Swim With the Sharks by Harvey MacKay, Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi or The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. Study people who seem at ease with talking and observe how conversations flow with them. Take them out to a meal and ask them questions so you can soak in their insight and great wisdom.

One of my bowling friends had an interesting observation about the multitude of ways to entertain ourselves in today’s computer driven, digital society. We have more forms of entertainment than ever before, and we don’t have to leave the comfort of our homes to access most of them. As a result, I think many lose the art of face to face human contact and connection. Remember to make memories not just over internet lines- get out in the world and surround yourself with people.

We are all given the same 24 hours a day to use as best as we can. In the long run, possessions come and go- memories stay for a lifetime.


Peace, Love and Tranquility

October 30, 2009

Some days you just have to approach happiness from an inner perspective. I love when I hear statements out in the world like, “I had a bad day because this person cut me off in traffic.” or “The rain gave me no energy to want to accomplish anything today.” You can make a conscious choice to not let any of life’s bumps in the road bring you down.

This morning at work a woman was having great difficulty as she didn’t have a companion to bring her down for day surgery, and she needed a wheelchair plus assistance to get down to the first floor. Since we didn’t have regular transport volunteers available until my shift ended, I called down to the emergency room and explained the situation to the nurse. Within 5 minutes someone came down to help. The woman thanked me twice for this service- something I would normally do anyway when I see people in need.

Contrast this with our current dilemma with our youngest daughter. She’s upped the ante so to speak in terms of gaining attention. We’ve always had difficulty with her portrayals of when she’s sick and when she’s feeling well- as well as when she’s in pain. There have been times that she’s taken a good fall in public for instance and we won’t hear a whimper out of her- but then she’ll lightly bump her knee against an end table and the screaming and crying will last for half an hour.

Between my wife and I we heard tonight she’s having back pain, stomach pain and broken her leg (even though the babysitter knew she hadn’t as she was walking on it fine). I made a conscious decision when she came home from school today that whatever she was going to do, I would stay within myself and maintain my composure. As she was getting upset by my lack of communication towards her- she stated that she had a good day but I was making her have a bad one. I replied, “I don’t know about you but I’m perfectly happy right now.” which she tried to turn into me saying, “so you think you are perfect?”.

In those moments where you want to defend your words, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it? Do you want to be right, or do you want to be peaceful and happy? In the grand scheme of things I know what I said and I’m not experiencing any sense of short term memory loss. I returned to my reading (Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk, a business book about cashing in on your passion) and figured it would be best to let her stew in her own frustration.

With both my wife and I off for the weekend, we probably will employ a series of unique tactics to hopefully have my youngest see that she isn’t really getting what she wants currently by trying to make the house chaotic. If that means she doesn’t eat with the family or interact with us until she shows us proper words, a proper conversational tone and respect, then I’ll spend my time having fun with my wife and oldest daughter.

I’m still carrying with my the happy, loving moments that happened through the week. The kindness extended through my friends and family. The people who I encounter at work who give a fresh smile, a kind glance or a good word about what you are doing. My friends that I bowl with that can provide a hearty story to make me laugh. I choose to look at my world through a wide open bright light- and if she decides to join me on the journey, I welcome that chance.

The bottom line? There may be certain people in life you have to interact with, but it’s your choice if you let the days they are experiencing negativity drag you down or lift you to new heights. I consciously go towards the people who bring me joy and want to live happily for the next moment.

How Do You Stop a Freight Train?

October 29, 2009

We could see it coming for a few days. You only wonder when it’s going to happen. The explosion- the full blown temper tantrum of a traumatized child- is something that as a parent I’ve come to expect. It doesn’t mean that want to see it, and I wish it would go away.

What are the warning signs for us as parents? Usually verbal disagreement with any simple request is a start. My daughter didn’t want to go to the store with me to pick up pet food for the cats. She roamed through the pantry and refrigerator for a snack and drink as if I didn’t exist. When I didn’t offer assistance for her homework because she commanded me to help her in a yelling, frantic tone of voice. It didn’t get any better when my wife arrived home from work.

The part that remains difficult for me is the screaming. I know it’s a primal release, I know she’s attempting to save herself from her past memories. It’s as if she’s lost all sense of who she’s with now and re-living the birth family trauma on a looped motion picture. The people close to us know she’s not being hurt- but I fear outsiders believing that we are harming her.

We tell her after she’s back in good space to just talk to us before she feels like she’s going to lose control. We’ve never punished her for reflecting or difficulties with birth family memories. Although I don’t know what it feels like to have to be removed from my birth home so young, I do feel like I’m a safe place to fall when she needs reassurance, comfort, love and support.

Words are her greatest weapon of choice- and boy she’s been coming out swinging over the past couple of days. Because I work overnights, I’m at the mercy of when certain stores open to take care of the household needs. Grocery stores of course are open by the time I get home- but a pet store doesn’t open around here until a couple of hours after I go to sleep. So I wanted to run errands when my children came home. She went to the older cat and said that “Your dad is a loser because he hasn’t got you food.” A couple of hours later I became a bigger loser when I wanted her to break out her agenda to solve a simple multiplication problem on her homework.

Some days, it’s tough not to take the toxic atmosphere personally. In Deborah Norville’s latest book, The Power of Respect, she mentions ignoring negative behavior as a great lesson for children to understand that this type of attention will not get them the results they desire. That’s oh so tough to follow in practice with traumatized children- who day in and day out look to spread their pain and unhappiness on to others.

I want the freight train to slow down. I want her to start doing the healing work necessary for her to have a healthy adult life. I can’t wipe away the decisions her birth mother, birth father and extended family did or did not make when I wasn’t her father. I know in her mind, there are no do-overs. She feels like she’s trapped in the life that she currently has with no hope for change.

Yes I’m venting- but I need to do this to let people know that raising children of any kind is not a by-the-book experience. I’m on the outside looking in at a daughter with so much promise, so much energy, so much resilience- only if it could be channeled in the right direction. To be continued, as I’ll keep you updated with the progress.

Part Time Interest, Full Time Benefit

October 28, 2009

You have to love relationships that you can tell the shift in time, effort and energy are not equal. Even if the scales are tipped slightly in one person’s favor, at least you know that both parties have interest in investing to get their needs met. What can be frustrating within our household is the part time interest in relationships, but the desire to get full time benefits without really investing in the people who are your parents.

My youngest daughter admits today in the final 10 minutes of therapy that not only has she been thinking about her birth sister and her birth mother, but essentially she still views my wife, myself and my older daughter as just another foster family- 3 1/2 years after living with us and being fully adopted by us through the state system. She wonders why she isn’t closer to one of her big goals- a visit with her birth mother. I ask her what steps she’s willing to take to show us she really wants this visit. She states she doesn’t know.

I reminded her that if I wanted something that badly and I knew there were people who could help me achieve this goal, I would not only ask for help but I would probably take their advice on how to move forward in pursuit of this visit. She would rather believe that the whole world is against her instead of seeking assistance.

Even this evening when my wife talked tentatively about a future vacation she would like to take away from the family, out comes this gem of a line from the younger daughter- “You’ve ruined a good two years of my life.” Wow- we didn’t know we had the power to cause such a thing to happen!

During the therapy session our youngest stated that she’s tired of the fighting that goes on in our family- but it appears that she’s not willing to be a part of the solution. She views the fighting as a reminder of the fights that happened in her foster care situation. The pain is still raw, and it’s a shame in my eyes that our positive time together is a tightrope that never outweighs the occasional struggles that happen in a natural family environment.

I told the therapist that I don’t think she’ll make a full commitment to change unless she believes in herself and knows that while it may be painful the growth she’ll make will be worth it in the end. I asked her if her current physical growth causes some pains and she admitted it does- so I told her that if you want things to get better, why don’t you start with yourself. Be nicer, take directions without an attitude, show people that you want to complete your chores and responsibilities, and actually take an interest in other members of the family without a direct benefit to yourself.

My oldest daughter believes her ways are set in stone. I have a differing viewpoint- my faith and confidence that change can happen in an instant, and that she still can make a safe road to recovery. The power of choice though is in her court, and her willingness to trust adult caregivers will be the key to unlocking the combination of a good, healthy and prosperous future. I take my multifaceted role seriously, as I want her to understand that those previous caregivers are not me- I am dependable, I will be there in good times and bad and I’m providing unconditional love and support whether she wants to benefit fully or partially from this.

I do see the Law of Attraction stifling her development- like attracts like and what you think about most grows in that direction. She talks about never, always and powerless victim behavior- and I wish she would look at events in her life as not roadblocks but mere stepping stones. As Jim Rohn talks about in his books and audio programs, success leaves clues. Maybe I need to introduce her to an adoptive adult who’s made it through a tough childhood to achieve a healthy, optimistic and trusting outlook on life.

I’ll never give up…

Keep Your Composure Through Adversity

October 27, 2009

Fear can move the body in mysterious ways. Some people will tense up and freeze, feeling immobile emotionally and physically to do anything. Others will run away, believing that they can make the feeling go away by maintaining the appropriate distance. I find that keeping your composure through any setbacks or adversity will improve your feelings about yourself and boost your confidence to tackle anything that comes to you with vigor and energy.

There are nights when I’m bowling where I don’t feel like I have the best “stuff” so to speak. The hand to eye coordination may be a little off, I’m a little fast with my body in comparison to my arm swing- or I just can’t seem to throw two balls the same way over the same target. When I was younger, I would blame everything outside of myself for these circumstances, and as a result throw 3 poor games because I didn’t choose to keep my composure, quietly look at what is going on and see if I could make modifications to achieve a different, more desirable outcome.

My first seven frames tonight felt like the younger self. After leaving a washout that I picked up in that final frustrating frame- I took the time to notice that one of my other teammates also seemed to be having trouble getting the ball to hook at the normal spot on the lane. Deciding to move up on the approach and throw the ball a little slower, my game improved and I was able to take a so-so night on to a better than average evening. I didn’t let the lanes defeat me. I didn’t blame anyone else but myself for not performing to my capabilities.

My oldest daughter felt like she couldn’t face school today. When she came home we talked about her day, and she admitted that in-house suspension is not something she plans on repeating anytime soon. 6 hours without talking to her represents torture of the worst kind. I promised her that the heads of the school, the special education department, her teachers and us as parents are all working together to make her sophomore year more of an enjoyable experience and alleviate some of her PTSD fears. We just have to let the powers that be get together later on in the week- and she can use her DBT skills to keep her composure day by day.

Even when it comes to the spontaneous events of life- we have to keep our cool if we want the best outcomes possible. What good is it to chase down a vehicle that cuts you off on the highway? How would you feel if that person were rushing to a hospital for an emergency situation? What if you meet anger with anger, or violence with violence- does that solve matters or make people feel worse in the end?

If you feel yourself getting out of your element, raising your voice, wanting to throw a sharp object at someone, etc.- take a minute to re-compose yourself by clearing your head space. For some people that may be a walk outside for fresh air, for others it may be closing your eyes, doing some deep breathing and counting to 10- whatever it takes to get the heart rate and brain to a calmer. In the case of my girls, one daughter needs to feel free without constraints of the apartment to get back into conversational mode, while the other daughter has to know precisely a time and place before she will even consider hearing you out when she’s ready to explode.

For me? I’ll read, I’ll clean dishes, I’ll play a computer game, I’ll walk to the library- I’ve learned to use a multitude of ways as it usually depends on my level of frustration. The bottom line is- you do yourself and the people around you little good to have a civil conversation or work out challenges when you are in a heightened state of fear, anger or confusion. Trust your gut and instincts. You’ve worked out some challenges before- see what worked before and see if you can apply those same techniques today.

Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

October 26, 2009

I’m currently reading Stop Self-Sabotage, a book by Pat Pearson about pitfalls that appear to be holding people back and step-by-step strategies to help conquer the limiting beliefs and feelings that can get in the way of your happiness. The section on self-esteem and self-confidence is one I would like to explore- because I believe it’s important to have both to have a balance in your life.

Self-esteem according to Pat is unconditional acknowledgment for your own worth and lovability. Self-confidence on the other hand is conditional acknowledgment for your performance. You in other words can feel worthwhile as a human being but fear being able to accomplish a certain task- or conversely you can have a hard work ethic and push yourself based on your beliefs about the subject at hand, yet not feel like a worthwhile, capable human being.

When it comes to my own life, I feel like I have loads of self-esteem and have been a consistent work in progress when it comes to self-confidence. I know I am loved and appreciated from my family, my friends, my co-workers, my teammates- yet I struggle when it comes to the confidence to accomplish many of my bigger tasks.

It was easier to play the victim role or the jealousy card rather than focus on my own road and see what I needed to do to accomplish my dreams. Why is he or she a great writer and the professor believes I don’t have a chance to make a living at this? How come certain individuals who have only been bowling a few years have a number of honor scores and it took me 28 years to accomplish my first 299 game, and 30 years to throw my first sanctioned honor score? Why are all my friends getting married, and I continue to be the third wheel when we go out for social functions?

It’s easy to let doubt ruminate in your brain, magnify itself in terms of intensity and then you almost talk yourself out of accomplishing what you desire. For years I did the same thing when it came to relationships and dating. I wasn’t willing to step outside of my comfortable shell, and instead I would date people that were either unattainable or I knew didn’t fit my ideal mate, so then I could go back to my friends and say, “see, it doesn’t work out!”.

I believe for me developing my abilities to share, listen and talk have improved my self-confidence, which in turn has boosted my self-esteem. Receiving feedback through my co-workers, family and friends helps me when it comes to small or large course corrections that I need to make in my life. I’ve learned within my children to allow ample time for discussion, as my daughters often fly high with emotion and aren’t ready to assess situations until they feel like they’ve been heard and understood.

So I suggest that beyond telling people that you love and appreciate them, you need to show them they are appreciated- with acts of kindness, complimenting them when they do something well, and reminding them of their awesome gifts and talents they bring to the world. Hugging your children spontaneously, complimenting them when they do a good job in school or with their chores around the house, noticing their talents, even something as simple as attending their school or sports functions- that’s big to self-esteem and self-confidence.

We are never done building both of these table-setters in life. We all need a boost from time to time- and if you aren’t sure your friends or family can provide that boost, find your favorite activity or seek out additional support from therapists and clinicians. I wish you a good day and I’m grateful for all the love and support I receive through your comments and insight.

Bargain Hunting

October 25, 2009

I’ve always tried my best to stretch my dollars. There are many items that I get in the course of life that I’m thankful for that don’t cost me much in terms of dollars- as I provide value in terms of writing reviews or interviewing bands for the music I receive. Tonight while shopping at a book store for instance my wife found a great bargain on a 300 page journal book. Normally priced at $16, it originally had a 50% off sticker. Imagine my surprise when the actually price came up at the register as $4- a 75% off deal!

What are some items I’m willing to pay full price on my life versus looking for deals? I know when it comes to my music purchases, I do enjoy the browsing aspect of going to actual record stores. The drawback will be the prices these retailers charge in comparison to online or mail order companies that can buy titles in bulk and afford to pass on their lower prices to the consumers. I’ve learned that my local music store usually puts a lot of the independent albums I seek on sale the first week these releases hit the shelves, so I plan my fun budget accordingly and also pay close attention to release dates to know I can get the most bang for my dollar. You may think- what’s the difference in paying $14-$16 for a full CD a week later versus the $10-$12 now? Over the course of a year this probably allows me to buy an extra 12-15 CD’s.

Books- I have a membership card to Barnes and Noble. The discounts help me when it comes to newer releases, and I also tend to look at the remainder aisles where they will often put 2-3 year old books out for 75% off the cover price. To me a used book will contain the same information as a new book- so scouring has also helped me save hundreds of dollars through the years.

Bowling equipment- when I was building my equipment for tournaments, finding gently used equipment that I could re-plug and re-drill saved me 40-50% off of new equipment costs. Some of this equipment helped me win tournament money and also roll some serious honor scores, so I believe you can get some good deals out there. You have to find dealers and people you can trust, get accurate pictures of the equipment so you can make the best decisions and a willingness to research as much as you can about the bowling balls you desire.

Clothes- I look for sales at outlets like TJ Maxx, JCPenney’s and I also feel lucky that we have a series of gentle worn second hand outlets called Savers that you can get some really good deals on. Clothing is one of those areas where I try to get the best quality fabrics for the more reasonable price. You can always buy the cheapest pants and shirts, but if they only last 4-5 washes and you have to replace them, in essence you’ve wasted money.

Food- I’m willing to pay more for organic products. My health matters to me, so I also strive to get the best I can with vitamins and supplements. My wife and I will browse the circulars from week to week, see which stores have the items we desire on sale and stock up on non-perishables if we can.

Automotive repair- I’m willing to pay for good service, the hardest part through the years has been finding someone I trust. I would say in 20+ years of having cars, I’ve only trusted 2 mechanics… and sitting at 10% with my trustworthiness rating isn’t cool in my book. Luckily my current mechanic is one of the two good service mechanics I’ve encountered in my lifetime, so I plan on staying with him. He give me estimates, explains everything in full detail, gives me time frames that are fair and makes me feel like I have the final say on what happens to my vehicles.

So there you have a little insight into my purchasing mannerisms. What are you willing to pay full price for and what do you search around for the best deal on? What factors into your purchasing decisions? I would love your feedback on this one…