Meeting People Where They Are At

November 30, 2009

It’s another end to another holiday weekend. As always there’s something to be taken away in terms of value. In this case, my youngest daughter has a lot of work in front of her. Therapist/ author Daniel Hughes discusses meeting people where they are at in terms of the healing of reactive attachment disorder. We know when it comes to certain things she may be chronologically one age, but severely behind emotionally in how she’s able to handle day in, day out events.

I’ll take a small instance of explaining a rule we have in our house, and then 20 seconds later she’ll break that rule- with me catching her in the act. She has a mindset that within the home anything she thinks of and desires she should have- irregardless of my role or my wife’s role as a parent. We had her perform a big fix for a temper tantrum she had yesterday- and we need to balance that with showing her she’s still a worthwhile person and a part of the family.

This can be confusing to our oldest daughter. We know the attachment she’s made has been at a deeper level. To her, her younger sister should already be over the fact that she’s not going to reunite with her birth family. Since my oldest has worked through a lot of that trauma, to her the sister already should be beyond this and attaching to us. I mean, it’s been close to 4 years, right? Oh, how I wish everything when it comes to love, trust and understanding could be so black and white.

I explained to my youngest daughter that she’s in a safe home. That parents can have verbal disagreements from time to time (and as best as we try to display these interactions behind closed doors out of the sight of the children, it’s going to happen on occasion out in public) and still love each other without resorting to physical outbursts. She still fears me striking her when I have to physical guide her out of a room. To those of you who’ve known me through the years, I’m not the confrontational, physically challenging type of person. I would rather talk things out and if that doesn’t work, walk away from the situation and regroup.

This will make therapy an interesting scenario on Tuesday afternoon. Will she admit the poor choices she made with her therapists? How will we work on better conflict resolution in the future? Will she be willing to look me in the eye when we have a conversation? Does she realize that as a father I still love her and that I’m not the enemy?

If I could snap my fingers and cure the ills of ages 1-5 with my youngest, most assuredly I would. I don’t want her to have a struggle with men the rest of her life. She just feels like she has to protect herself more than let people in and just live as normal of an adolescent life as can be possible. I want the energy of anguish and pain to go in a better, more positive direction- through work for others, through exercise, through activities that she truly enjoys and will make her happy.

I can’t lecture her. I need to be firm and quick with my instruction, yet patience, loving and understanding with her outcomes. Maybe through our commitment she’ll see that we haven’t given up and that even if you make a mistake, you can learn from it and become stronger in the process.


The House Is Sick…Literally

November 29, 2009

Figured I would give people an update in the household. We’ve been lucky enough to pass on a 24 hour bug to each others. At least 3 out of the 4 of us have had some form of it in the past 6 days. This started with my youngest daughter, moved on to my wife and then I have some form of it today. The holidays are already challenging enough with the girls and birth family memories- but being sick on top of it takes this to a whole new level.

I tried to do what I could while I was feeling well. That included some laundry and a trip to the store to buy antiseptic supplies, ice pops for my wife and some ginger ale for its medicinal properties. I haven’t had a real full night’s sleep all week. It’s hard when everyone is running to either bathroom and you sleep in the living room (so you can stay away from your wife’s germs) and it’s like a bunch of pit stops at a raceway.

Since we live so close to the mall, we got the chance to experience all the traffic first hand for Black Friday. Both my daughters thought it would be cool to get to the mall when it opened at 6am. By 7:30, their money was gone and they wanted a ride home. Both of them couldn’t handle the large crowds. The younger one wouldn’t listen to the older one while she was going from store to store to buy her Christmas gifts. Can you tell shopping is such a fun experience around our household?

At least I know when things are in crisis mode, my oldest daughter remembers what she was taught from babysitting class to make people feel calmer and safer. My wife was having an asthma attack earlier today and she knew how to get her to puff her inhaler when she physically couldn’t. I guess earlier this summer when my wife fainted at the beach she knew what to do to revive her as well. I’m not so sure my youngest will know what to do other than to freeze and possibly scream.

I’m going to attempt to eat some chicken for supper tonight. Everything I’ve had in the past 5 hours has quickly exited my system almost as quickly as it went in. I guess I’m lucky that I haven’t felt the cramps as badly as my wife and oldest daughter had, but at this point I’m very tired of the house being sick. It brings the mood down of the house, everyone is irritable and you can’t get as much done as you would like.

So everyone have a wonderful weekend. I truly am grateful for all of the commentary through all of the social media websites regarding my blog. I’m hoping that it gives you some food for thought and also some practical items to possibly put into action. Think if you are having a tough day that there’s always someone else who may need your ray of sunshine to brighten their world. It can be as simple as asking, “What’s going on?” and then sitting back to listen. We all need to feel love, appreciated and heard.

Half Full or Half Empty 2

November 28, 2009

We live in a different economic climate these days. Some states in the USA are reporting double digit unemployment numbers. Even if you do have a job, many of us this year have seen health insurance costs passed on to us, raises suspended or frozen, and others having to take some unpaid furlough time or risk being laid off. It’s very easy to be swayed into thinking there’s no hope for your future and that we will be stuck in these recession times for years.

I went through the same feeling during my college years of the early 1990’s. I worried about finding the right career after obtaining my degree. I realized quickly that if you really are sincere about who you are as a person and get to know others through your lifetime (plus make a regular habit of keeping in contact with them), your chances of survival are much higher.

Luckily for me, I continued through my college career developing my own deejay business with my best friend and partner. We pooled all of our extra income back into the business, updating our look, our equipment and continually striving to offer the biggest production at the best prices. When I finished college I started on a path of teaching- obtaining an emergency private school job in my town thanks to the headmaster of the school following my career. I made an impression not just working in his cafeteria for four years, but also through my work in the community and my academic accolades.

When I moved into my current work at a hospital, my father-in-law gave me the heads up about an opening on the overnights. I spent years debating whether I wanted to work at this particular place of employment- but knew that now would be the right time to do this because of our child care needs. When it comes to adoption, I didn’t want my daughters to spend a long time getting to know us or form attachments. Being that they were older children, we knew the road would be harder and bumpier- so I felt it would be easy for one of us to be at home with the kids when they got home from school. I’ve never regretted the decision- I love my work, I love my wife, I love my daughters and I think they are growing up to be wonderful young ladies as a result of the security and consistent parenting models they receive.

You can always do something to move you in the direction of your goals. If you don’t have the dream job you desire, find someone who’s working in that field and ask them for advice about the skills and people they need to know to get into that field. I’m going to take some advice from Jack Canfield that he posed in the January 2010 issue of Success magazine. He believes this year everyone should take one new activity they’ve never done before and spend 30 consecutive days doing that activity. Some of his ideas include: 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise, reading 30 minutes a day in the personal development/ self-help field, call one of your children on the phone, drink 10 glasses of water per day, and so forth. Imagine how much stronger you would be in mind, in body, in spirit, if you added 12 new life skills to your personal balance sheet?

Now is the time to take matters into your own hands. There are universal principles that apply in any time period to make things better for your life. Study people who made their success in tough time periods of life: especially the great depression of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It’s so easy to put the blame on the government, on your parents, on where you live, or any other external circumstance. Take the time to look within yourself and I bet if you spend more time working on yourself, the ideas and goals you need to accomplish to get further ahead will be staring at the mirror in front of you.

Favorite 80’s Moments

November 27, 2009

Remember the 80’s? I went to a lot of concerts, bought a lot of records, made a lot of friends, attended many high school functions and sporting events. I learned a lot about myself. I developed my sense of who I am and where I wanted to go in life. I learned to take risks and reap the rewards- as well as how to handle failures a little bit better. These are some of my favorite moments.

First concert: Iron Maiden/ Twisted Sister, Worcester Centrum, January 1985.

I went to the show with two of my friends that my mom and dad worked with at the State Line Auction store. We thought about going to the show weeks before the concert- so we ended up getting seats in the upper balcony nosebleed section. It didn’t matter to me. My friends were there to see Twisted Sister- who I thought were good, but they weren’t the mighty Iron Maiden. Dee Snider was having a hard time singing because of a bout with the flu- so he would run off the stage during some of the solo sections and had to rehydrate himself.

I sang every word to the entire Iron Maiden show. I lost my voice and had bells ringing in my ears for a couple of days. I bought the Powerslave tour shirt when bands would sell baseball jersey length sizes. I converted my friends from being Twisted Sister fans to Iron Maiden fans. I would see the band on 4 subsequent tours- but their stage show and ability to connect with everyone from the front row to the back was a tell tale sign they would be around for future generations to follow.

First job: Mr. Otto’s Flower shop. I was 14 at the time. I learned so much about the flower delivery business- how to interact with customers, the personalized touch, how to make arrangements, the degree of politeness necessary to make the customers feel special and that appearances go a long way. I only stayed there for 6 months before moving on to a cafeteria job at the Winchendon School, but I applied a lot of what I learned from Cliff and Keith to my philosophy with deejaying. Years later as an adult, I would get the opportunity to bowl on the same team as Keith on Monday nights before he retired from bowling. Amazing how your life can come full circle.

I also remember saving my best friend’s prom in 1988 by quickly running around to gather our equipment and getting what would could from our collections. I remember the church dances, our drive to start a teen center called the Hot Spot, the school football games, the bonfires and pep rallies, and the sense that our town was a nurturing, small town community where you really gained the chance to know everyone.

I thank the people who challenged my shy ways, who encouraged me to step outside of the boundaries I set for myself and become a better person as a result. I hope I have been able to give you that same level of courage, friendship and insight that you’ve given to me. We can each come from different backgrounds and different worlds and still find some level of common ground.

It’s good sometimes to reflect on our time growing up, see where we are today and champion our accomplishments.

To Do Or Not To Do

November 26, 2009

We have 24 hours in a day, yet feel like we can never accomplish everything we desire in that time frame. It’s so easy to procrastinate, put things off and wait until someone else comes along to give us that push to action. Why do we struggle with self-motivation? To take a page out of Shakespeare’s world with a minor substitution, to do or not to do can be the statement that sends your world to new heights or keeps your life in stall out mode.

When I first started living on my own in college, I learned that the professors give you a syllabus for the semester that outlines when papers, quizzes, tests and projects are due- along with percentages of what your grade will be based on. They won’t tell you how to manage your workload amongst all your classes. They won’t be urging you on to get that book read, that paper written, the studying you need to put in for the big mid-term or final. It’s all left up to you. If you didn’t develop good study skills in your formative years, you’ll certainly have to develop the mindset in college to know how to manage your time effectively- or you’ll be swimming in stress and possible failure.

It was at this point that I learned to break tasks down into smaller chunks, and understand that if I have 20 books to read in a semester, I need to look at how much I can realistically accomplish each day as well as fitting in my normal daily living activities, socializing, meal times and adequate sleep. I would write out daily and weekly to do lists and cross each off as they were accomplished. If I needed assistance in the form of studying for tests, I would seek out teaching assistant or my professors during their office hours. I worked on teamwork to get the material embedded in my head- so we would form study session groups in our dorm.

I wasn’t very good at waiting until the last minute to accomplish major 15-20 page papers. I often volunteered to be first when it came to class presentations- because I felt my preparation and attention to detail would be a good barometer for my classmates to aspire to. If I want to accomplish my dreams, I know I have to be one to come up with the desire, the plans, writing it down, breaking it up into manageable tasks and then taking each step forward every day to achieving my goals.

So I’m urging you to develop lists called “To Do Now”, starting with your most difficult tasks at the top and working your way down to your easiest tasks. If you aren’t able to accomplish something that day- transfer this task to your “To Do Now” list for the following day. Write out what you want to accomplish the night before you go to bed- it will give you the impetus to know what you have to get going on when you awake. If you need some inspiration in the morning, seek out the comfort of positive material from Success magazine or authors such as W. Clement Stone, Napoleon Hill, John Maxwell, Brian Tracy, Deepka Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jim Rohn, Denis Waitley, T. Harv Eker, Marcus Buckingham, and hundreds of others. Look in the mirror and reflect on how wonderful, special and unique of a person you are. You have talents and abilities the world needs in their lives everyday- so shine like the bright beacon of light you are.

You don’t want to look back at the end of the year and wonder where the time went- you want to feel like you have more to offer to this world and can’t wait to tackle each day with gusto.

Thanksgiving Memories

November 25, 2009

Although it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I figure I would give people a glimpse into some of my favorite memories with this special day. They all are about family moments that have stuck with me through the years.

The most recent Thanksgiving I remember would be the one where my oldest daughter’s siblings and their adoptive parents came over to our apartment to have dinner with us. The three of them probably hadn’t had a dinner like this in a few years, and it’s always good to have siblings who are growing up spend time together around the holidays. We had plenty of turkey, pie and laughter as they played board games and video games together. We feel very fortunate that all of her siblings live within a close area, so that they still get the chance to watch their relationships grow in their youth.

The first Thanksgiving I had over my in-laws house in 1999 would also be a memorable one. It put new meaning to the word ‘anything goes’ in terms of conversation. I got the chance to sample a unique fruit salad that tastes better chilled than when served warm, and my sister-in-law spent a good chunk of time discussing the recent OJ Simpson crime scene photos she got the chance to look at in one of her college classes. I think I said to myself at least 15 times during the course of the hours of food and card games, “this would never happen in my household.” This helped me understand more the uniqueness of family chemistry and how important it is to listen, share, learn and love.

I remember a Thanksgiving as well over my aunt and uncle’s house where my grandparents would also be involved. We got the chance to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation before serving the turkey and trimmings, and I think out of all the Chevy Chase movies in the series, this one would be my favorite. The movie hit home the trials and tribulations of dealing with extended family over the holidays. How much Clark Griswold wanted to make a great holiday with all of the light display and just couldn’t get things to work out exactly as he wanted.

Usually during these dinners we would spend time talking about our favorite moments growing up, we would take a look into each other’s lives and my family never made my brother and I feel like we couldn’t participate in these conversations.

So if today is a day of travel that you fear due to the amount of traffic, take a moment to close your eyes and realize why we celebrate this day. It’s a time for caring and sharing. It’s a time to step outside of your comfort zone and get back into the family mode- even if you’ve had a difficult year. Remember that we only have a finite amount of days in our lives- and I think we can take a few during the year and appreciate where we’ve come from and where we will be going in the future.

And if for some reason you can’t spend the day with your loved ones, make the most of the family that’s around you- with your friends or even with the people in your community. Maybe you can deliver meals to the elderly who can’t get out of their homes. Maybe volunteer to set up tables or serve meals at your local shelter. Be sure to be around people and express gratitude for the life that you have. Let the warmth from your heart radiate to others in your circle. I’m grateful for your time, your energy, your kind thoughts and the feedback to make this blog continue to thrive.

Kindness: A Lost Art?

November 24, 2009

We work very hard in our household to promote kindness with our children. My wife and I both grew up in environments where you go out of your way to show appreciation for people- out of kindness and not out of any desire to receive a special benefit. My mom and dad taught me to be a gentlemen and take the time to listen to people, open doors for people in need and offer my assistance if someone is seeking help.

I wonder though if kindness is a lost art form in today’s frantic paced society.

How mad do we get when someone is in a rush to get on the highway? If someone has a couple of items in a store line and we have a cart full of groceries, how willing are we to allow this person to go ahead of us? How often do we thank our servers, our post office delivery people, our landlords, our teachers, our bosses, even our significant others and our sons and daughters?

With the number of messages delivered to people in a given day (and I’ve heard we are bombarded with well over 10,000 according to the latest research), how often do we hear, “you’re doing a great job!” or “I really like your infectious laugh” or catch someone doing something good?

I love the fact that my daughters want to go for walks together around the downtown area where we live. Without even asking today, they went to the library and got my books for me while I was sleeping. Yesterday they both made my wife and I a fabulous dinner- not because they had to but because they wanted to show us they can do it and help the family at the same time. It’s excellent to see that our generosity and deep conversations haven’t been lost on them when they return these acts of kindness.

My wife has a friend that wanted to adopt a family for Christmas by getting gifts for them in their time of need. The mother is going through a series of complicated health issues and as a result doesn’t have as much to spend on presents for her daughter this year. We wanted to do something special for her so we made the connection and now she and her daughter will gain the chance to make this Christmas one of the best they’ve probably ever had.

When it comes to kindness and thinking of it like a bank- I would rather continually make deposits than expect withdrawals. I will acknowledge kind acts as they happen in and around my life- but I don’t expect favors to be returned on a 1 to 1 basis. If I can connect people who can create win-win situations, then all the better for both parties involved. I feel like it’s my purpose in life to help others as much as I can. I’ve been given the gift of a wonderful wife, a loving family, two caring daughters and an extended set of friends both close and far that are kind enough to share some of their time and energy with me.

Make it a mission to perform three kind acts in your life every week. Gain the courage to extend yourself in an area of life you’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t made the time or energy to pursue. Volunteer, contribute, acknowledge people when they are doing something well. Even if it’s a small e-mail catching them doing something right in the community- people need kindness as much as they need air to live fully and completely. Your head and heart will thank you in the long run.