One Simple Choice

June 30, 2010

You have the power of choice within your hands everyday. You can interpret your day as good or bad based on how you view life. Many people succumb to the notion that the world is out to get them. Others view certain aspects of life as not within their control and they maintain focus on the areas that they can control. Whatever you choose, understand that these simple choices are within your capable hands.

My daughters right now struggle with choice, especially when in crisis. If they feel disappointment, shame, anger or fear- they tend to lash out with their next choice on the person closest to them. Whether with words or with actions, the danger becomes pushing that person so far away that when you are in real need of their help, will they be around for you or will they make you go it alone?

My wife and I are simplifying areas of our personal lives. Whether it’s cutting back on work hours to make sure one person is around more for the children and their appointments or taking away luxuries and placing an emphasis on what we need versus what we want, we work together as a team to make sure that the family can stay connected and strong.

I love to read, but I haven’t been buying as many books as I normally would. I’ve been taking most of the summer off from bowling which frees up a lot of my spending. I don’t look at this with resentment- it’s my simple choice to throw my attention into other areas- be it card and board games, reading and listening materials from the library, and engaging in more outdoor activities where my expenditures are minimal. I’ve never been the type of person that has to feel like I’m spending a lot of money to have a good time. I enjoy and cherish what I have around me.

So don’t be afraid to simplify your life. Make the small choice to spend 15 minutes a day clearing up an incomplete in your life. Maybe there’s a closest you’ve always wanted to tidy up. Maybe you have some extra clothes that you don’t wear that could find a good home with Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Maybe you can bake some extra goodies for your neighbors or a homeless shelter that would welcome donations. Maybe you can sit down and read that long forgotten book you’ve meant to. Maybe you can take up a new hobby and find friends to share in the experience.

Make that one simple choice. Don’t sit on the sidelines any longer. You have only one life to live- and once time is spent, it can never be put back on the clock. You don’t want to be sitting there 30 years from now wishing you had accomplished and seen and done more than you’ve chosen to do. Put down the excuses and take that step forward. You’ll be glad you have in the long run.


Fear Of Choice

June 28, 2010

We’ve had our daughter home with us now for 11 days, and we are starting to sense that her passive-aggressive behavior may be something that is difficult for her to navigate within a family structure. There’s a sense that it’s easier to protect herself and maintain a certain sense of control over closeness versus taking the chance to and go all in so to speak with your head and heart to trust my wife and I for full loving commitment.

I don’t want this fear of choice to plague her relationships for the rest of her life- and yet my daughter thinks we are delusional that how your childhood relationships are with your parents do have a significant impact on your adult relationships- with your partner, with your family, with your friends, and especially how you feel about yourself.

I feel blessed that I grew up in a family with a mother and a father my whole childhood and through adulthood. Single parents, adoptive parents, step-parents, and others who have to take on this role have a much harder road to climb. Children thrive with stability, and they may not know where to turn to if they feel like people aren’t going to be there for them for the rest of their lives.

In the mornings, my youngest will throw statements out there and play the blame game: seemingly innocent statements but the blame and pain are hurled at anyone else but looking within at herself. It’s mom’s fault she didn’t wake me up on time- it’s your fault that I didn’t get to eat breakfast- I don’t have enough clothing to wear- you don’t give me the same privileges you give your other daughter- and so on down the line.

When I went to drop my youngest off today at her grandmother’s so I could get sleep from work, I said that I love her. The response of “uh huh” spoke volumes of how she knows that her words and her actions can have an impact on us. It’s difficult at times to handle the fact that she may want to love but doesn’t feel safe in her head and heart to do this. She’s had so many times where the promise of love has been dangling before her, only to be whisked away to another family and have to start all over again.

We are here to make sure she grows up to be a wonderful young lady. Whether she thinks we can give her the tools for success or she thinks we are the biggest idiots in the world to me is inconsequential. I want her to know that we didn’t give up on her hopes, her dreams, her need for love and affection and understanding. She can be angry about her early childhood and the events that happened around her, but I consistently remind her that she can always change her view of the past when she’s ready to. You can either live in the past or set a new course in the present for your future.

I don’t want her to be frozen by fear. She needs to move beyond the anger and confusion and start making decisions that will benefit her in adulthood. She has to be willing to hold herself accountable and not put her head in the sand all the time when challenges arise. Do the same for yourself in your own life. Do not be afraid to complete the incomplete- resolve issues that have been holding you down for weeks or months or years. You’ll be surprised how much weight off your shoulders you’ll feel.

Not Feeling Well

June 26, 2010

We are together as a family again this weekend. We want to be united as one, but we seem to be more individual than ever. When we attempt to have serious discussions to resolve issues, we cower into corners or attempt to overpower with our voices to get our own ways.

I’m not feeling well about this. I guess it’s to be expected. When your daughters aren’t living with you 24/7, they have the right to be edgy and feel distance. You become a part time parent over the phone and at the times you get to see them in person, instead of the full time role you’ve played when they are in your home all the time.

I want both of my girls to get past their anger and back into bonding- with my wife and I. They have a connection to each other- and I am happy for that. But I sometimes question and wonder how much of a mother-father-daughter-daughter connection is really there. When you tangle so much verbally, are you creating the bonds necessary for successful relationships as adults, or are you only teaching them that you have to fight and argue to get your way?

We want them to have respectful conversations with us- not condescending and mean spirited talks when we set limits. I believe some of this has to do with their age and testing the boundaries as they ascend the independent ranks into adulthood- but there are other times where I believe they just want to throw that mean jab or quill out there to push our buttons.

Do I have a quick fix solution to this? Not really. They are angry- they feel shame- they have guilt. I can be here to help them- if they are willing to accept the help. They prefer talking to therapists and clinicians over their parents- because they believe someone trained understands better than my wife and I do their trauma and mental health concerns. However when the real events pop up we are the ones who have to settle them down and process the issues at hand- not clinicians or therapists who can’t be in our home at all hours of the day and night.

I’ve been reading some work by Richard Bandler who is one of the co-developers of neuro-linguistic programming. He teaches people techniques for distorting past traumas, phobias and fears and getting them to triumph over issues that have been plaguing them for years. I know that EMDR/ tapping has similar principles behind it and we’ve seen the benefits for one over the other in this regard. As a parent I wish I could re-write the past script of their lives, but I can’t. We can only deal with the cards thrown before us- no matter how disoriented and out of sorts they are.

So now I vent again. It’s better than taking my worries out on the children. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day- that I won’t take their pain personally. They only want to live a good life- and I should deliver the best that I can for them. As a role model, as a father, as a human being. I need to be real. I’ll continue to be real. The positive needs to outweigh the negative.

Don’t Get Stuck At The Start

June 25, 2010

Ever feel like you have a certain dream or ambition of what you want to do, where you want to go, places you would like to visit- but seem to get stuck at the start? It’s as if you know the end you want in sight, however struggle to get out of the gate in knowing the first step to take to move you along your dream or goal.

I find it’s better to ask for help and obtain the skills and knowledge you need to achieve you dream. When it came to my passion for music, I went from being a music consumer to a writer about music. I took advantage of the opportunities given to me 20 + years ago when other music fans began writing their own magazines. They asked me to contribute, I would receive music to write about and then I would interview bands, researching about their past and present so that I could get information that I felt the fans would want to know about these musicians.

I didn’t say to myself I don’t know how to go about this. I wrote letters, I expressed my desire to write and when one magazine would fold, I would gain another opportunity. Even now with the print medium in flux, I still write for online magazines and I have to thank many of my writing friends who’ve been able to give me the opportunity to shine. At first my writing was stiff, awkward and very immature- but I found the more that I did it, the more I read what other writers were doing and saying and the more I applied myself, the better I became.

What I’m expressing is the fact that anything that you start will not be something that you get right away or become an expert on. On average to become a master at something takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and execution- which can take 5-7 years or even more depending on the availability of your time. If you really want to pursue your dream, throw yourself into it. Find someone who’s succeeded and ask them questions about how they started and their learning curve. Get yourself a coach if necessary. Study film and video- which can be easily accessible these days through all the social media channels on the internet.

I know as a parent of adoptive children with mental health issues, I do not know everything there is to know about the subject. Both daughters come from different backgrounds, have different trauma histories and have differing personalities. As a result, what works for one doesn’t work for the other. My wife and I apply techniques from various therapy models and sometimes even have to make modifications from there. Ultimately, we don’t give up. We are committed and have known from the start that this was going to be a journey of epic and mammoth proportions.

You can achieve your dreams if you set your mind to it and take action everyday in one way or another. It doesn’t matter whether your 7 or 70, where there is a will to do something your mind will catch up and find the way. Don’t get stuck on the details- just push yourself forward and I think you’ll be impressed at the dividends and outcomes.

What Matters Most Now

June 23, 2010

What matters most now is safety and security.

The ability to provide for my wife and my family.

Bringing happiness and joy to those closest to me as well as those I may only encounter briefly in my lifetime.

Wanting my daughters to grow up as healthy adults, and learn that their pasts do not dictate where they will be in the present and future.

That I can make small changes in my life when I am ready and they will add up to better health and better wealth to benefit my family and their lives.

The fact that I can be creative daily and put my thoughts out to the world through my blog entries and my music reviews and interviews.

The release of energy in the right direction whenever I am bowling- and the chance to meet new people who share a similar love for the sport as I have.

The feedback that I receive from people when I share my life and they share similar experiences or extend their kindness to me in my time of need.

The love and affection I receive from my wife and my daughters.

The time that I can spend with each of my children, listening to their stories and sharing in the experience of helping them grow up.

The gift of insight, the gift of reflection, the gift of visualization, the gift to know that imagination can create my reality.

I will continue to challenge myself and become a better person today and learn from the choices that may not have gone exactly the way I envisioned.

To be in control of my emotions matters because I need to model appropriate coping skills for my daughters.

Assessing where I am in life and where I would like to be- then taking the steps forward in action to accomplish everything that’s within my mind that I put on paper.

RAD Wants To Win

June 22, 2010

After four days of readjusting to home life, my youngest decides it’s important to throw out her old habits on my wife and I. She apparently was upset about some event that happened yesterday and has been in a bad mood ever since. Displaying many of the key behaviors that have been habitual since her appearance in our lives: screaming, stomping, cursing, hitting walls and doors and crying spells in between. She “didn’t know” why she was displaying this behavior.

We didn’t take it personally again- but we are letting her know in no uncertain terms what is acceptable and not acceptable in this home. We are a place of safety and security. She can be mad- she can be angry- she can be frustrated- but she can’t be violent towards herself and other members of the family.

We knew that when she would get comfortable again with the routine of the household, these behaviors would come again. It’s sort of like a test- you’ve seen the good side of me, the compliant side- now let’s see if you are really going to stick around as I show my bad side, or if you are going to ship me off to another placement like I fear.

We let her know through this all that we are in control when she’s not. Which is a shame, because as she’s closing in on her teenage years I want her to gain more independence and ability to take over decision making. Yet I can’t do it when she can’t keep herself safe from her trauma. I hope that she is able to process whatever area she seems to be stuck in now. I want her to develop a new way of thinking and being, because I know that in order for a new habit to take shape she’s going to have to consistently repeat and believe in that behavior for a minimum of 21 days. Probably longer in her case for the muscle memory to stick, because for over a decade the tantrums win as her coping mechanism.

RAD wants to win- and my wife and I aren’t going to let it happen. She can throw all the hurtful words out there, and we can respond with patience and love. She needs to know we aren’t giving up on her. She can’t give up on herself. She needs to believe that she’s a worthwhile person and that her feelings are valuable. She needs to know that people are trustworthy and can help her safely in her times of crisis.

The emotions stir every time she starts spinning out of control. I’m thankful that we give her every opportunity to use her therapy skills to regain focus and work with us. Let’s hope that today becomes a better day as a result. It’s a good thing that we’ve had a little time to be able to regain our composure and face this issues with the parenting skills we have. Commitment to these children is a moment to moment process. They feed off of protecting themselves- and counting on you to throw in the towel.

That’s not our job. That’s not what we set out to do. We want to make their lives better, and whether they like it or not we want to show them that when it’s worthwhile, you commit for life.

Let Them Know You Care

June 20, 2010

Sometimes you have to meet people where they are at. Not where you would like them to be- but where they are in the moment. There may be time as you establish a relationship to push them to heights of achievement they didn’t know possible. At first though, I believe you need to establish footing and trust is the best way to do so.

We are currently reacquainting ourselves with our youngest daughter. Last night while my wife attended a concert she had been looking forward to for half a year, we had a chance to bond for many, many hours uninterrupted. I could tell she was a little afraid- not that I would do anything wrong, but that she would be upset at some point in time and lose her cool.

We played a card game that she learned at one of the treatment centers she was at. We played 5 games. I lost all 5 games. I didn’t lose on purpose- she won and beat me handily every time. I wasn’t mean spirited in terms of losing, we laughed and had a great time.

Then we sat and watched a movie on television. I love her infectious giggles at certain parts in the movie- as it was one she had seen before and I hadn’t. When it was time to go to bed, she asked me questions about how dark the room was and then when I told her calmly it was time for sleep… she dosed off into the night.

Flashback six months before. She struggled to hand me a remote control without thinking I was going to hurt her. She would shudder at the thought of sitting on a couch next to me. She wouldn’t let me get two words out of my mouth before interrupting me. The transformation is like night and day. And I know she is willing to do the work to become a working, successful family unit- just as we’ve wanted in the past.

Have there been bumps in the road? Of course. She occasionally says things when she believes she’s being funny but actually come out mean-spirited. At other times she’ll get stuck on what she needs to do next and will panic, reverting occasionally to losing her cool. Yet we haven’t had a full blown tantrum in the four days she’s been back- and every day that she doesn’t blow up, that’s been a good day. We stole the last line from her current therapist- who reminds to look at small victories instead of going for the championship in one day theory of parenting adopted children with mental health issues.

Bottom line? Let everyone in your life know you care. You don’t have to go out of your way with big gestures. A short phone call. A hug. Time out with them participating in one of their preferred activities. Your full, undivided attention means so much to another human being. It shows that you have empathy, you are willing to extend yourself to others without any hope of compensation.

Just like the road that finally got paved outside our apartment complex, you can always repair previously damaged relationships but it takes solid effort on your part and the willingness to take things one foot forward. I love my family and I welcome many more memories like this one in the very near future.