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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Oh CRAP!

Life is like house training a dog. Just when you start to get comfortable with the situation and are convinced your hard work has paid off, you find an undetected new pile of crap you have to deal with. The trick is learning how to deal with that revelation as it means you’re not quite as far along as you thought and still have some work to do.

I had reached a point where I was getting pretty good at accepting those little set backs. Then a few weeks ago I noticed myself slipping back into my old habits of letting the little piles irritate, well, the crap out of me. I was getting edgy again and found myself feeling overwhelmed and having a difficult time getting out of my funk. I was getting mad over stupid things like my football team losing, not finding my keys, and yes, our new dog taking a dump in my office. I was also getting irritated with my ex over things that really weren’t relevant or that important.

Early on, when I first started this blog, I wrote about being aware and how that’s the first step toward reaching new levels of peace and personal growth. I still believe that and put myself in time out one evening to think about what was going on and why I was so irritable. So I sat back and tried to assess the changes that had taken place and recognized that although I’d made tremendous strides the past several months regaining control of my life; I had ignored some fundamental truths about myself that needed to be readdressed. Biggest one on the list?; I had stopped running and getting exercise. I’ve written multiple times about the importance of giving yourself that hour and the difference sweating and physically pushing yourself can have on your mental state. Yet, somehow I’d managed to ignore my own advice and had allowed a busy schedule to get in the way of maintaining that balance I’d come to rely on.

The other thing I’d manage to do is forget to being ok with saying “no” once in a while. I was putting pressure on myself to make everyone happy and it was taking its toll. Especially since professionally I was increasingly busy, which was a good thing. The problem was, I was also trying to be the perfect dad, friend, neighbor, blogger, brother, son, dog owner etc. And in doing so, I not only ignored my own needs, but I also overextended myself which inevitably led to far too many situations where I felt like I was constantly catching up. And as you well know, when you spend an entire week or even month continually five to ten minutes behind, ultimately you’re going to get warn out both physically and mentally. It honestly felt like there was no time to sit, no time to breathe and no time to recharge and though I consider myself an extrovert, my inner introvert was failing fast. I was ignoring a fundamental truth; we ALL need a chance to recharge.

The problem with all of this is that by trying to be all things to all people, no one gets what they need. And that only leads to more rushing and anxiety as you feel even more overwhelmed and guilt ridden. And of course, being a guy, the last thing I was going to do was ask for help.

So I stopped. I knew I wasn’t being myself and the person I’d worked so hard to grow into. Life kind of helped as baseball / softball season ended which freed up no fewer than 4-5 nights a week. I also asked my ex for some help with the kids so I could focus on some extra projects that had come in. I made a point of forcing myself to go to bed at a decent hour. And I started running again. Even if it was only two miles on the treadmill, I was giving myself a chance to clear my head again. Within 48 hours I noticed a difference. I became more focused in whatever I was doing. I regained my composure and felt less panicked. I started finding myself on time, on target and on task.

The funny thing is, I actually have more on my plate now than I did even two weeks ago. And yet, I don’t feel nearly as far behind on things. Sometimes it’s just our perspective. I honestly believe that rest and exercise can really be under appreciated. Working out helped clear my head and helped me sleep better and sleeping better had a profound affect on my mood and ability handle the heavy load. Just stopping periodically gave me a sense of control. Especially when I realized the sky wasn’t going to fall, the sun was still going to rise and people would find a way to continue without me from time to time.

The reality is, you’re constantly going to find surprise loads of crap from time to time. It’s jut how it is. The world is constantly going to drop little turds when you least expect it and what matters is how you decide to handle life’s little presents. You can either allow them to irritate the bejesus out of you or you can scoop em’ up, toss em, light a candle (or incense) and move on with your life. It’s really up to you. The point is to be aware when those little things are causing you to sweat and give yourself a chance to regroup.

Oh, the dog is doing much better by the way. Like me, she’s adjusting and learning. She’s also a great running partner.

 

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Marketing Mr. Mom

Hang on; getting up on my soap box. Let me just set it down here and situate myself.

I’ve been watching debates along with television commercials for laundry detergent and am growing increasingly disappointed in the lack of attention being given to a growing statistic in our country. Almost as insulting as the comments being made about a woman’s role in today’s society; are the lack of comments being made about the growing number of men who are stepping into a more nurturing role as fathers.

I was reading an article on CNN’s Web site and in it, it sited that according to the U.S. Census Bureau 32% of dads took care of their kids at least one day a week in 2010 and of those families with kids under the age of 5, 20% of dads were the primary caretaker. What’s important about these numbers is that they represent a significant rise in the role of stay at home dads over the past decade and the numbers appear to still be rising. (Read More)

The role of dads continues to evolve and our involvement in the day to day lives of our children continues to grow. So, why aren’t more advertisers taking notice of this fact? Why are Swiffer commercials still featuring women who can’t keep up with their sloppy husbands, messy kids and muddy dogs? Why aren’t dads seen grocery shopping in television ads? They’re certainly all over the place in television shows and movies. And why in the world are men who are on the verge of leading our nation and influencing the reflection of our culture still painting a picture of women in aprons and high heels ala Donna Reed while at the same time completely ignoring the changing face of the American household?

And yes businesses should consider flexible schedules, but it’s not just for women. A fast growing number of men are racing just as quickly to get home in time to get the kids off of the school bus and get dinner started. Some are single dads while others have wives who are staying late at the office. Our society is changing and it’s about time more mainstream mediums took notice. There’s actually money to be made by targeting dads who are doing laundry, making meals, putting bandaids on scrapes and vacuuming the living room. Hell, I’m one of them. I can’t tell you how many dads I see at grocery stores around the country with two kids in the shopping cart and a third one begging for Boo Berry cereal. Or how many dads I run into in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

When my wife and I split, we did so evenly. We share responsibility for our children 50/50 with me carrying the additional load of health insurance for our kids. And I’m not alone. This is a script that is becoming more and more common in our country. So why aren’t politicians and advertisers speaking directly to us?

One of the purposes of this blog is to let divorced dads (and moms) know that they have more choices than perhaps they recognize. While my personal preference would be for my kids to be under one roof with two parents, I continue to believe there are ways for divorced parents to work together and provide their kids with solid relationships with both parents even when it involves two households. Is it always feasible? No. But it should be blatantly obvious that dads, divorced or married, are just as capable of being an equal primary care giver as are moms.

Not saying one is better than the other, but depending on any given family’s circumstances, it’s quite plausible that the definition of mom and dad is being turned upside down. How you define your relationship with your kids, your ex, your spouse is completely up to you. You do, to a large extent, have choices. They may be difficult ones, but you have more control than you may realize and it starts with communication, compromise and prioritizing.

Perhaps if we had more people speaking out about the subject, more advertisers targeting this new growing base and politicians being more in tune with the changing landscape of our society, divorced parents would have more support that would help them to continue building strong relationships and foundations for their kids. Because the hardest part about being a divorced dad is that you feel very isolated and alone in your journey. But just like moms, we figure it out. We may not do it the same way, but we do it and we learn with every
stumble. We learn to look for bargains, we learn how to make sure our daughters’ close don’t get mixed up, we figure out that it’s easier to make school lunches the night before and we learn how to prioritize and say no to work sometimes to ensure we’re there for our kids when they need us.

As for the big picture; it’s all about awareness and inviting more people to take the journey with us so that they can understand our world a little better. That includes the media, our schools, our government, our friends and our family. It’s about people seeing dads in the role of care giver and making their kids a priority and being o.k. with it. It’s about employers appreciating the fact that we didn’t schedule the softball game for 5:30, but we need to be there. It’s about neighbors accepting the fact that not all homes are Norman Rockwell stories and that that’s o.k. too.

So I invite Tide to introduce a commercial featuring a dad who’s trying to get the stains out of his son’s baseball jersey or Kellogg’s to suggest to us dads a healthy way to feed our kids in the morning. And maybe for our presidential candidates to mention the stay at home dad on occasion, just to make sure everyone knows we exist. Because we do … and we Rock!

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

I’m HANGRY!

We’ve all had moments when for some reason our kid(s) just seem possessed and unreachable. It can happen at some of the most inopportune times and leave us scratching our heads for an answer. And of course at times it can push US off the deep end as well.

Now, for some of you this may seem like a no brainer. But for others who may have been thrust into single parenthood, especially dads who up until know relied on “mom” to handle meals, this may be a helpful piece of knowledge to keep in your back pocket.

When my ex-wife and I were still together, we noticed a definitive pattern with our kids when it came to their demeanor. It would happen just about every day around 4 p.m. and would become known within our family as the witching hour. An edginess would creep into the household and little tempers would flare. The kids would get antsy, edgy and at times unmanageable.

Over time we recognized a pattern. A hungry child equalled a kid who quickly lost control of all faculties. You could bank on it. It wasn’t just a minor edginess either, it would be a complete lack of ability to control emotions and actions. With three of them it could cause a complete train wreck. And then of course it hit me. These were the offspring of a man who gets incredibly ornery if he doesn’t eat; a phrase a friend of mine recently referred to as “hangry.”

As an example, twice this past week I noticed one of my kids becoming inconsolable and incredulously uncooperative. One of these moments occurred on a day when dinner was missed due to an early softball game. My youngest started to lose the ability to reason and was growing increasingly whiney and loud. No words, timeouts, or threats of consequences were having any affect. I then noticed myself growing increasingly annoyed and frustrated as well, which was what typically happened before this cause and affect was recognized. But now, recognizing that it was 6:00 and that the kid had missed snack time after school, I stopped dead in my tracks and made a run to Sonic. Within five minutes (literally) of getting food on the kid’s stomach he became a completely different kid. I’m not kidding. It was that immediate and was like watching Jekyll and Hyde. You could literally see the transformation before your eyes.

The beauty of this knowledge is that it accomplishes two things. One, it immediately allows you to put down your own defenses because you’re able to recognize there’s a direct cause of the activity. The second is, you can quickly fix the issue and even prepare ahead of time.

At the same time, pointing out to them the difference and teaching them to recognize that they may need sustenance empowers them to help manage their own mood swings. How liberating it will be once they can recognize how they’re acting and realize they may need to eat something.

So now, pockets and glove compartments have cereal bars and snacks in them. Cucumbers, cheese and crackers await the kids when they get off the school bus. And of course, whenever possible, ensuring meals take place when they should is an essential; even when we’re in a rush in the morning. That’s kind of a “duh” I know, but we all know how easy it is to skip dinner when there’s a 5:00 baseball game or we need to be in four places at the same time on a Saturday.

Now obviously, hunger isn’t always the answer. It could be an earache, something that happened at school that day, or they could just be in a mode. Or maybe, for some reason, today they’re simply struggling with something; perhaps even the divorce. The point to all of this is to consider the source of their actions and not necessarily throw your arms up in the air and assume they’re being brats just for the sake of being a brat. Typically there’s an underlying reason for their actions and our jobs as parents is to find the strength to control our own reactions while we attempt to get to the root of our child’s.

It’s funny isn’t it? How often we take for granted the things we’ve learned about ourselves over the years and yet expect our kids to know and understand their own emotions from day one. Sometimes in the heat of the tantrum it just helps to stop for a moment and recognize your kid is obviously hurting on some level, either emotionally or physically, and needs some guidance more than a stern voice. Easier said than done, but as hard as it can be, sometimes the best thing we can do is stop, listen and be the reasoning voice for both of parties; especially when you’re both a little “hangry.”

 

 

 

 

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It’s Time To PANIC!

We’ve all at some point of our lives experienced a panic attack. Life has a way of doing that to even the most well adjusted person. It may be due to something as simple as realizing you may (or may not have) put the wrong zip code on a fed-ex package, left your phone at home or prematurely hit “send” on what could be considered an “angry” e-mail. It of course can also be caused by something serious like losing your family, your job or discovering you’ve been the victim of a ponzi scheme, leaving you to wonder how you’re going to pay for Christmas. Regardless, at that very moment it feels like it’s “all” over. The walls are collapsing, the fat lady is singing and as Chick Hearn used to say, “This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O is jiggling.”

Typically these moments last for anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes. Or at least that’s what I thought until I got divorced. Suddenly these moments of overwhelming fear and anxiety had the potential to last days, sometimes even weeks. It could become a nagging chronic sense of underlying doom. At times even crippling. A feeling of emotional vertigo that you can be forced to carry through every waking moment as you attempt to regain control of your life. It can be triggered by watching your ex-wife drive away with the kids for the first time or a bank statement. But when it hits, it’s hell.

What I came to realize was it’s simply a matter of cause and affect. That as your life shifts to new realities and unfamiliar territory, the stability and structure you’ve come to rely on has the potential to quickly go “bye bye.” Adjusting to a divorce can present the potential for a string of negative events that can make it feel like it’s all spiraling out of control. It’s actually not unlike being at the top of a roller coaster, sitting in the front seat. There’s that freakish split second when you realize, like it or not, your’e strapped in, and about to plunge.

So what to do? Hmmm. Good question. As a guy, chances are you tend hold on to things. Maybe it’s anger or for no good reason, a towel rack your ex decided she wants. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, sometimes all you can do is acknowledge and move on. You can hold on to the anger and let it consume you and affect every aspect of your life, INCLUDING your relationship with your kids and yes, your ex. Or you can practice the fine art of recognizing that the towels can hang on the bed post for a while.

It may sound funny, but sometimes the best way to gain control is by letting go of it.

Accept change. And by change I don’t mean Fiber One cereal instead of Fruit Loops. (Fruit Loops now provides fiber by the way, says so on the box). No, I mean big stuff. I’m not a psychologist, or therapist, but I can tell you from personal experience, that most likely what’s causing your panic attack can be traced back to something you’re desperately trying to hold on to that’s actually keeping you from growing. It may be the lifestyle you had when you were married and have tried to maintain. It may be lingering feelings for your ex. It may be your core sense of family that’s been stripped away. It may be the simple fact that you’re in unexplored territory against your will. Whatever it is, try to determine what it is that you’re holding on to and start considering ways of letting it go.

I’ll say it again, take control by letting go. Accept change. Life happens for a reason. Acknowledge that some of the things going on in your life are not what you planned on or wanted. And realize that may not be a bad thing. Take a good hard look at the cards you’ve been dealt and, for a while, be happy with a pair of eights. It’s no royal flush, but it beats nothing. And for God’s sake, stop convincing yourself that everyone else has a natural straight. Because chances are they only have a pair of fours and are convinced you have four aces. Bluff if you have to, but get through this hand and prepare for the next one, because a new one will be dealt soon. But first you have to get through this one by making the most of your pair of eights.

So don’t panic. Easier said than done I know, but do your best to ride it out. Talk to someone. Maybe a financial advisor, a friend, a therapist, the dog; anyone who’ll listen. As guys we have a hard time opening up,
but it helps. Sharing the fact that you want to take a step forward is actually the first step forward. You’ll also find yourself empowered through the knowledge you gain through those conversations. So start talking.

And while you’re at it, consider the fact that it may actually be exciting to wipe the slate clean and start over. A dear friend of mine told me that a panic attack is a last ditch effort by your sub conscience to hold on to your old life. It means you’re growing, evolving and ready to let the old life die in favor of building a new one. It’s a scary step, but perhaps your mind is telling you it’s ready to move on and has already started letting go without you. Maybe your panic attack is a sign that it’s time to prepare for a move.

I’ve always found liberation in purging. Getting rid of the crap that builds up in storage. Keeping up with all that “stuff” requires way too much energy. The same works in your head. Purge the crap. Get rid of it. Let it go! Kick it to the curb. Strip yourself of the baggage both emotionally and monetarily and start renovating and preparing for a clean slate. Put your energy toward more productive things, like building a new life. Don’t get me wrong, I personally think it’s healthy to hang on to a few things. I mean, we don’t want to completely lose touch with where we came from, but get rid of the excess. As soon as you do, I’m pretty confident you’ll start to feel some traction and like you’re in control again, which in turn will lead to fewer panic attacks.

And ironically, it’ll be because you accepted the fact that you’re NOT in control, and decided to let go.

 

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If You Think You Are Beaten

I graduated from college in 1988 from the State University of New York @ Fredonia. Despite a successful four years and a pretty fair grade point average, a freshman biology class I’d put off until my last semester had me waiting until two hours before the ceremony to find out if I’d actually earned my diploma. With fingers crossed I called my professor who informed me I made the grade. He sounded a tad less thrilled than I did and before I could thank him, he’d hung up. Loved that guy.

With diploma in hand, my parents and I made our way to my eldest sister’s home where a slew of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, sisters, nephews, niece (only had one at the time) and a few strangers who just “showed up” all took part in quite the festive celebration. 

It was your typical graduation party and as hoped, I received my share of gifts that afternoon. But there was one in particular that stood out from the rest. One that would find its way through every move I made, every part of the country I lived in and on every wall that saw me faced with challenges. I’m actually looking at it as I write this blog entry.

I found it while rummaging through some boxes I’d packed after leaving my last “office gig.” It was given to me by my Aunt Sophie an amazing woman. A Franciscan nun who spent her life opening up schools and educating the masses, Aunt Sophie was indeed a saint. Mind you, I’m not an overtly religious man, but five minutes with her and you recognized that you were one “linked in” connection from heaven. There was a sense of calm about her right up until the day she passed earlier this past year. How odd I should find this treasure at a time when I find myself in transition, often questioning myself and my ability to overcome adversity.

As I unwrapped her gift that day, I found these words in front of me, inscribed on a simple plaque:

If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t
Success begins with your own will
It’s all in your state of mind
Life’s battles are not always won
By those who are stronger or faster;
Sooner or later the person who wins
Is the person who thinks … he can

God Bless you Aunt Sophie and thank you. Good to know there are angels watching out for us, I’ll pass this along to some friends of mine who could use some words of encouragement.

 

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