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Trust Me

Do you remember when you believed everything people told you? Or knew in your heart that your “bestie” that week was going to be your “bestie” for life? Unfortunately, eventually we catch our parents leaving a dollar under our pillow or our best friend sits with someone else at lunch and our view of the world is forever changed. Watching my children get hurt through what is normal every day interaction with human beings is tough. You can’t protect them from it. It just happens as we all know. The world is not there to serve them which is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Sometimes people hurt you, even if it’s unintentional. All you can do is prepare them and then be there to catch them if they fall and reassure them that it’s just a part of life. Some of us can shrug it off relatively easily, others, not so much.

But let’s face it. When you’re an adult and have been hurt enough times, it’s hard enough yourself to trust, let alone teach someone else to trust. Despite being fortunate enough to have had terrific mentors and loving family members; like you, throughout my life I’ve had my share of backstabbing friends, self serving bosses, lying girlfriends, and haphazard thieves who helped themselves to guitars out of the trunk of my car. And then there’s life’s ability to sucker punch you, like when my best friend died at the age of twenty two. And, of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the one relationship1390267987623884429306.15044 you knew you could count on for eternity simply went Ker-Plunk for what could be a multitude of reasons.

So there you sit; all wounded and banged up, when your kid walks in crying because their best friend lied to them or said something mean behind their back. Based on the type of day you’re having, in your head you may be thinking, “People suck honey, best you realize that now.” But you and I both know that’s not the answer nor is it a true sense of the big picture. Yes, some people suck. And sometimes people hurt you inadvertently or unknowingly simply because of childhood wounds that leave you vulnerable to certain actions by those around you. Sometimes you simply assume the worst or misread someone’s actions. Or perhaps their own world may be a train wreck and you simply happen to be standing on the tracks at the wrong time.

Regardless, the truth is life is complicated and humans are a crapshoot. My mentor in college once told me, “Every day we each have the potential to be the asshole. So look in the mirror each morning and ask yourself, will I let it be me today?”

Staying positive and remaining a trusting soul takes effort and character. I’ve done a relatively good job of being able to focus on the positive or overcome the adversity of negativity throughout my life; but trust is a whole other ball of wax. That one has always been a struggle for me and every knock down only makes it harder.

As I watch my kids grow, evolve, learn and progress, I realize there are certain lessons I need to teach them that I myself need to learn as well. Not giving up on humanity, my world or those around me is one of them. Becoming a more giving and open individual is another one; even if it means leaving myself open to pain. Finding that balance between being smart, cautious and streetwise while being trusting, open and vulnerable is one of life’s greatest challenges. But to close ourselves off completely due to hurt, anger, disappointment or perceived judgement is a dangerous path to take. We may need to hole up for a bit to lick our wounds, but eventually we need to let people back in and give them an opportunity to gain our trust.

My children will hurt. That’s a given. I can’t help that fact. They’re human as are those around them. But despite having experienced my share of hurt and disappointment, I can teach them to continue trusting and believing in people, life, their world and the cosmos. To be trustworthy in their own right. To appreciate and understand human nature. To be self reliant and strong. To be vulnerable but self assured. To be giving as well as FORgiving.

And above all, I can give them the greatest gift; and that is to always trust themselves.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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One Small Step For Divorced Man

January proved to be one of the most difficult months for a runner in Nashville, and yet perhaps one of the most empowering at the same time. Mornings with single digit temperatures and minus zero windchills tested even the most dedicated. I will tell you there were evenings when every stride hurt like hell fighting the cold, the wind and sometimes the freezing rain on my face. At 47 I could feel my bones ache and my joints tighten. And I can’t tell you how many time I swore I felt more like 74.

Where I typically found running to build my energy and provide me with much needed umph, instead I found myself continually drained. I lacked motivation. Found myself going to bed earlier and earlier and sleeping in later and later. I felt overwhelmed and defeated. With a full life, fitting in workouts proved challenging. But ICrossfit-exhaustion-june-21-4 forced myself to see it through; some nights squeezing in a quick two miles. But eventually every mile was slow and arduous. Every stride evoked a grunt. This was the first time in my life that I perceived running to be a constant drain, having depleted my body of every last ounce of energy and drive.

But I’d made myself a promise and had professed it to many a close friend and colleague. And despite the mental and physical battles I managed to put in 25 workouts and 74.1 miles through the month of January. Still, though a goal had been met, I still found myself looking at running negatively for the first time I can remember. Never had I pushed myself so hard only to feel so unfulfilled and completely exhausted. My body ached consistently throughout the day. Every step walking to my car in the cold wind that had become our January brought me further down. I then recognized that not only had the month taken its toll on my mindset toward my workouts, it had also managed to push me to new limits in my view of life in general. Where I typically found desire and drive, I now found anxiety and exhaustion.

When you co-parent three kids as a divorced dad; your life is; shall we say quite full. To the point that it is near impossible to have a life outside of work and family. Maintaing the home, the bank account, the kids, the career and fitting in time for physical release at some point is enough to bring even the most determined individual down to their knees. And yet you push forward. You pick em’ up and put em’ down. Somewhere you fight for the strength to continue. Quitting simply isn’t an option. You truly have no choice but to keep … moving … forward.

And then it happens. Just when you’ve reached a point when you’re convinced you’re at a dead end. When you EXHAUSTED4have no more to give. When the thought of taking one more step, making one more lunch, folding one more pair of jeans, all of it is inconceivable; the clouds begin to dissipate. The sun begins to shine. And somewhere within, you feel a fire start and you find a new inner strength awaken. But what you don’t realize is that all of your efforts through the cold; every time you pushed yourself through the wind, rain and darkness; every extra effort you made to push yourself forward; has made you that much stronger.

A day of 61 degree sunshine squeezed itself in-between arctic vortex’s. And it was glorious. And I had perhaps one of the best five mile runs I’ve had in years. And I attribute it to each and every one of those horrible, painful, dreadful runs when I was convinced my time was over. Forcing myself through the mental muck and bitter cold rain. They were what built the foundation for this amazing feeling of rebirth. Had I not fought through all the crap, I’d have never experienced the joy I felt that day.

As a single dad (or mom) you accomplish things every day that would make most people crash and burn. You manage miracles on a regular basis. You battle life, work, traffic, the drama that is a nine-year-old, finances and lost keys. But each day makes you stronger as you recognize what you’re capable of. Each argument, struggle, battle leads to greater understanding and stronger relationships.

If you’re hitting a wall. If you feel stuck in a black hole that’s full of single digit temperatures, dark skies and gail force winds that freeze your very soul. I promise you, it gets better and every step you take is going to make you that much stronger. Just remember; we get so accustomed to handling so much so often, that we fail to give ourselves credit for the small victories. It’s easy to run five miles when you feel great. But what an accomplishment it is to run five feet when you have NOTHING in the tank and you’re down to your last breath. Remember; some days the very act of taking one step, in and of itself, can be an accomplishment worthy of a trophy. If all you had in you was one step today, that’s one more step than zero.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Your Loss Is Your Gain

Thought I’d stop and check in on you. How’s your holiday been so far? It can be a tough time for a lot of people and divorced parents are no exception. There’s something about the season that can make us focus on what we’ve lost rather than what we may have gained. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your ex, the
griefholidays have a way of reminding you of the un-whole aspect of your family and then unceremoniously throwing it in your face. It may be because you’re not with your kids during the holiday. It may be because you are. It may be because you’re all together but in a very different dynamic than you were a few years ago. It may even be a very positive and happy time. But it’s still a reminder of what used to be and that things may be patched, but in some ways they’re still broken.

Believe me I get it. The hard part is that there really is no “fix.” As with the loss of a loved one, all you can do is that which fate allows, which is to acknowledge and move on. Be strong. Lick your wounds, stand up straight and use your experience to your advantage. In many ways the hurt strengthens us. There’s a grit to it that allows us to know we’ve been there and made it through. It doesn’t erase the negative or fill the emptiness, but there’s something about having lived through adversity that humbles us and reminds us that we’re human.

Look, I could sit here and do my best to pump you up with words of encouragement; telling you not to focus on the pain. But honestly, I think sometimes we need to morn our losses. We need to give our souls a chance to heal. To ignore the pain is no more healthy than it is to dwell on it. If you’re sad, that’s OK. Give yourself an opportunity to grieve. It’s a part of who you are and to ignore it would be to ignore an important element of the whole “you.” So embrace it. Accept it. Carry it with you. Hold it dear rather than bury it deep where it can do
the-only-cure-for-grief-is-actionmore damage. I believe that in each of our defeats there is a victory. In every mistake a lesson to be learned. The new year represents a new dawn and an opportunity to take the sum of our experiences and build on them. To create new goals and new aspirations. To find renewed determination to make it better. And in order to do that we need to remember the hurt as much as the pleasure. Let it inspire you. Let it motivate you.

Recognize that life is a mixed bag. Too much sugar isn’t healthy for the body. We need a proper balance of emotions to feel complete. So shed a tear for the losses, share a smile for the gains and look to tomorrow for new opportunities to sore higher than you’ve ever flown. And use these moments of emptiness to remind you of where you’ve been and how amazing it will feel to be full again. Then when you’ve given yourself a chance to take it all in and come to terms with it, it’ll be time to take action and put it all behind you.

Take advantage of this time to reflect on the past year, both good and bad. A new year is right around the corner and anxious to take you on new adventures. Let’s be ready to go and see where we end up!

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning To Say Goodbye

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My brother-in-law Paul and me.

For the past several years I’ve worked hard to ensure that my children know my family. My sisters and parents all live 700 plus miles away, which has made it a challenge at times. So, we make the trip up north at least once and typically two or three times a year to play and visit. At one point my ex-wife and I even moved everyone up to Buffalo for six months to make sure a connection would be made. All told, the benefits have been enormous. The relationships my children have with their aunts and uncles are something they will carry with them the rest of their lives and their memories with them are too numerous to mention.

Today I find myself helping guide them through the first negative that comes with having a strong relationship with a relative; having to saying goodbye. The passing of my brother-in-law Paul has been nothing short of a strong blow to the gut and we are all feeling the impact. This is the first loss we’ve had within our immediate little circle and my sisters, parents and I are all in a state of shock. And as usual, my kids are watching. They’re watching me talk on the phone with my family. They’re watching me break down in front of the dairy section at Kroger. They’re watching me stare off into space as I try to make sense of it all. And they’re watching me do laundry and clean the kitchen as I deal with the day to day operations of our lives which simply don’t stop.

The children lost an uncle and I a big brother. He was the husband of my eldest sister and he influenced me in more ways than I care to mention. He was a teacher, a photographer, a carpenter and a business owner. He probably taught me as much about life as my own father did as he was a part of my world from the age of
three. He encouraged my sense of humor, taught me to play pool, helped me build my first bookshelf and helped me chop down my first Christmas tree. My kids of course are full of questions. And they have all requested to make the trip north with me to say goodbye and be there with the rest of my family.

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Paul playing Uno with the kids

And so, we will make this trip together. As much as I want to protect them from pain, there are life lessons that can’t be avoided no matter how much we try. This week they will no doubt cry and feel a pain that until now has
been foreign to them. They will see others, including their father, struggle to make sense of their uncle’s passing. But at some point in their life they will have to say goodbye to someone and if there is any comfort to be found in all of this, it is that they will do so within a supportive circle. A circle they’ve spent the past several years becoming a more integral part of with every visit. They will need hugs and need to hug. But along with their pain, they will know the value of being a part of a family they are now completely vested in.

As a man who has made an art out of keeping people at arm’s length (including my family at times); teaching my children to open themselves up to hurt by opening themselves up to love has proven to be a daunting task. But just knowing how much they have learned from knowing Paul and the rest of my family, knowing how much laughter and joy they have experienced from being around them throughout these past several years; I myself have reflected on how much can be gained from making ourselves vulnerable. Paul taught us all a great deal. And as one friend put it, even in passing, he’s managed to find a way to teach one final valuable lesson. How to say goodbye.

 

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If You Only Knew What Your Kids Think

I recently discovered a growing number of kids who are reading and sharing LAADD and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s mind blowing. In most cases they are children whose parents are divorced or split, and as I read their own blogs, at times, quite frankly, I’m brought to tears. Their stories, their perspectives, their lives are, in some cases, rocked to the core by what they are witnessing. Their views of their parents and how they perceive the reasoning behind the choices their parents have made are at times down right chilling.

As a divorced parent, you need to know your children are watching. EVERYTHING. And they understand more than you often give them credit for. At the same time, they see things through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with the pain that you’ve encountered. All they see is selfishness on the part of their parents. Theyimages don’t know the hurt you or your ex are experiencing. Nor could they comprehend it. They’ve never been married. They’ve never experienced some of the things you or I have. They can only judge what they see by what they can relate to and because of that their views can be somewhat skewed. But it is still their perception and it is their reality. What I’ve gathered from reading their own blog entries is that in many cases, they’re not impressed. And more often than not, they are hurting.

Their hurt is deep and shaping the way they view the world and the people around them. Whether or not they see themselves as a reason for the divorce, they still feel abandoned and unimportant. They consider themselves an afterthought. They view themselves as very much on their own. My guess is that part of the reason for this perception is that as single parents we have to be everywhere at once and often turn them away when they are trying to connect. Part of it may be because they see us worried more about our own emotional needs than theirs. In being passed back and forth they likely feel like a hot potato. Even if it isn’t true, in their heads they likely interpret us as saying, “OK, it’s your turn to deal with them.” They feel less like part of the team and more like the ball being tossed back and forth. Regardless of the why, what I’m reading in many cases is an internal emptiness. A dark void that has surrounded them. This void has made them cynical, cold and lost.

I share this with you as a reminder that we need to constantly renew our focus on the emotional and psychological needs of our kids. They didn’t ask to be brought into this scenario. We thrust it upon them. Regardless of who walked out, cheated, abused or initiated the separation, on some level our own choices in life are now directly affecting them. Even if one or both parents are a huge positive, any negative is going to be taken personally. No matter how many times we tell them we love them or want them around, in many cases they see regret in our eyes and ask themselves if bigstock_depression_184004181part of that regret is having had them. They ask themselves if they are your baggage first and your kid second.

I am so thankful for what I have learned through this journey. Some of it has been gratifying and other parts difficult to swallow. All of it has shaken me to the core. There is so much hurt to go around. So much pain, much of which bubbles under the surface, hidden from public view. It’s all the more reason to do everything we can to stay focused on the positive. To balance the negative and hurt with compassion and understanding. To view ourselves as part of the solution not part of the problem. To put our egos aside and take the high road. To hold our tongues and be aware of the big picture. We choose every day how to react to those around us. Our ex’s, our friends, neighbors, family and yes, our kids. And we have the power to set the tone. It’s not always easy and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, misinformed assumptions, and overreactions. Just stop when you’re at your limit or feel yourself on the verge of completely losing it. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day that you are the foundation your kids so desperately need. Know that they need to have a strong sense of belonging to a family. You have so much power to establish the energy of the room and build a healthy, encouraging, environment for their fragile, still developing egos. They want you to be there for them regardless of what they may say. And if you’re not, they will find somewhere else to turn. And often that place can be dark and and incredibly destructive.

There is so much our kids don’t share with us. Perhaps sometimes we purposefully turn a blind eye to it simply because we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we prefer to live in ignorant bliss. But it’s important for us to be aware of their reality. Ignoring it is not the answer. Get it out and address it head on. Some of the conversations are going to be difficult. Some of the things you hear are going to hurt. But remember, you’re the adult. Teach your kid to face the negative head on by constantly being there for them. As a parent, by definition, you’re often the enforcer of rules and bearer of bad news. But let them know you can also provide them with an open forum free from judgement. There are things they’ll want to keep to themselves, but there are things they want to and need to share. But they’ll only do it if you’ll let them and they feel safe in doing it. Do your best to let them know that when needed they can come to you to discuss things. And above all let them know they are the single most important thing in the world to you. They need to know that fact down to their very core.

 

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