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Find Your Tribe

Today I’m here to simply remind you of the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people who truly get you.

You are going to have times when you feel as though you are being crushed by the pressures of your life. You are going to have moments when it all seems insurmountable. You will experience times when you feel completely isolated and alone. I assure you, the secret is to NOT be isolated and alone. Even if your marriage sucked; somehow you still felt part of a team, albeit a dysfunctional one. You still had that other person in the house. Now it’s just you. Just you to deal with the house, the finances, the kids, the groceries, the laundry, the yard; all of it. Just you. And sometimes it’s simply too much. One way or another, it’s important to step away for a moment and give your soul a respite. Quite often I jump in my Jeep, put the top down and just ride through the country to get way from it all. The secret is to remind ourselves that there’s a whole other world out there. What makes those rides even better though is knowing that even when we’re alone, we’re not. Dark,2014-03-31 08.32.57-2 cold, negative worlds are a horrible place to exist in by yourself. Life is going to naturally throw all kinds of negativity at you on a weekly, daily and sometimes hourly basis. And during those moments, sometimes it’s not necessarily having the ability to call someone and say, “URRRGG” that helps so much as it is just knowing you have someone you COULD call. Knowing that somehow they’re there with you in spirit.

If you haven’t already done so, reach out to people. Be human. Be connected. Surround yourself with others, even if just in spirit. And not only when you may need someone. Often the best medicine for what you need, is being there for someone else who needs. Obviously when your world is in a state of complete chaos, that can be a very difficult thing to do, but it’s worth it. It actually does your soul good to step away from your own mess from time to time and sit across from another human and just be there to listen. But it all starts with you taking steps to surround yourself with others who understand your world, want to be there for you and may need you just as much as you need them.

You’re going to slip into the abyss once in a while. You’re going to lock the door and close the blinds and curl up on the couch determined to shut the world out until the storm blows over. And honestly, sometimes we all just need to do that once in a while. But don’t make a habit of it. Give yourself a chance to recharge and then push yourself at all cost to step outside your comfort zone and be with people. You may get a text from someone inviting you to sit down for a cup of coffee. And you may be in a state of mind of coffejust wanting to be by yourself for a moment. Once in a while respond with, “Sure thing … be there in 10.”

Listen, I promise you, Facebook is a lie. Everyone’s life is not that rosy. Everyone is experiencing their own pain, their own struggles and their own hardships. It may be a relationship issue, a health issue, a family issue, financial issue or any number of things. But we all wake up with something that’s not perfect. Some days I’m tempted to start a new service called “Realbook” where people post pictures and updates about what’s REALLY going on in their lives that they’d rather you not know about.

The point is, you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing so don’t attempt to go it alone. Search out blogs like this one and people who are in the same boat as you are. Read books about what you’re experiencing. Educate yourself. The very act of taking steps to make it better will help. Now more than ever you need positive energy in your life. Search it out. Lose the negatives and focus on lifting yourself up by providing your soul with support rather than people and things that knock you down.

One way or another you’re going to make it through today. You can either get to the end of it being scared, frustrated and in a mode of panic, or you can choose to open up to others and make an effort to make things better. I promise you there are people there who want to help, who want to listen and need to be heard. People just like you. In all likelihood you’ve already said hello to a dozen of them today.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Society That Cried Bully

Were you bullied as a kid? Before you answer, stop and really think about it and then consider how your kids will answer the same question thirty years from now.

The word is being thrown around a lot lately and in the process its definition is becoming diluted, which personally I think is an insult to those kids who are truly being tortured to the point of suicide. It’s also a danger to our own kids who are being taught to label those around them as bullies when in fact they may be nothing
more than an ignorant kid who simply called your child a poopy head.

I myself was teased as a youngster. I was the short kid in school. At one point I strongly considered legally changing my name to Half-Pint. Kidding aside, it had a profound affect on me. It wasn’t just kids calling me names and labeling me, it was teachers, parents, coaches, friends, family, you name it. They all had their
shutterstock_87771445“affectionate” little names for me and were always quick to point out that I was too little to do things. My self image throughout life was that of being small and scrawny. Even after I’d become an adult and, for the most part, caught up, I still considered myself puny.

Would I consider it bullying? No. Teasing maybe, but not bullying. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I react to it? Certainly. I remember one day getting so angry I actually found myself shoving the tallest kid in the class into the chalkboard and punching him. But that was pretty much the extent of it. It led to a trip to the principle’s office for both of us and a lesson on choosing how we react to people.

Then I discovered Ernie DiGregorio, a point guard for the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. Listed as 6′ 0″, he was closer to 5′ 10″ and seemed dwarfed by the other players on the court. Yet he held his own. He had poise and exuded inner strength. I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet and he was my idol. To a kid like me, he represented that the size of my body didn’t matter as much as the size of my heart. He gave me a positive to grab hold on to and carry with me.

I still hated being short and looking back can see how the names, always being at the head of the line in school, the names, having short sisters who were bigger than me, the names, and frankly just being short, all had a profound affect on my self image; both as a child and as an adult. Still I wouldn’t consider it bullying.
Would it have helped if people would have been a little more sensitive? Sure, but the question is at what point does teasing become bullying or something more criminal? And do we at times put too much of the responsibility on the teaser, and not enough on the teased?

WHAT? Blame the teased? No, I’m not suggesting we blame the teased. But I do believe we are on a path of making everyone out to be a victim, which is dangerous. Yes, it is without question important to teach our children (and adults for that matter) to be sensitive to those around us. To be compassionate, supportive and understanding. To lift each other up rather than knock them down. But we also need to be giving our kids the tools to deal with jerks. To recognize that they exist and how to look past them and keep moving forward. To learn the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate us and ignore the noise emitted by those who would put us down in an effort to build themselves up. To understand why people are mean and learn how to blow it off.

The reality is, no matter what we do as a society, there are going to be assholes. Hell, as a dear friend and mentor once taught me, on any given day we have the potential to be that asshole. There are going to be jealous, insecure idiots who will do whatever they can to push down the strong willed and those different than images-6them. When they attack we need to know how to handle it and brush it off. To recognize that typically these people need bigger hugs than we do and buying into their ignorance is giving them too much credit.

That takes practice and it takes a support system teaching us that the actions of the mean are irrelavent and nothing more than a cry for help from someone much weaker than ourselves. They are actually a sign that the potential strength they see in us is a threat, one they don’t know how to deal with so they choose to spew hatred. I honestly believe bullying has more to do with fear than it does hatred. We fear those who pose a threat and tend to become defensive. Some take it to extremes with relentless taunts, facebook posts, threats, verbal torture and worse.

My point to this post is simple. I’m concerned that too much focus is on teaching kids not to bully and not enough on giving kids the tools to deal with being bullied. As much as we need to let kids know how important it is to accept each other and respect each other for our differences, we also need to teach our kids the value of having a tough skin. To learn to deal with adversity and defeat. To pick themselves back up when they fail or someone hurts them. This doesn’t mean giving everyone a trophy to build up their self esteem. Quite the contrary. It means recognizing those teaching opportunities. The strikeout, the D-, not making the team, being called fat or skinny; singled out because of race or sexual orientation or for wearing the wrong shirt to school. These are all precursors to the struggles that await them as adults. Their childhood is a pre-season of sorts. And it’s our job to coach them through it to prepare for the big game. From pre-school to middle school to high school, each instance is a chance to learn how to deal with struggles and find the inner strength to over come them. (Please don’t wait until high school to start.)

YES! We need to help kids understand the impact of their teasing, and bullying. But there are always going to be those who bully because they already KNOW the affects of their actions. It’s why they do it! They want to inflict pain. They want to knock you down. That’s their goal. The more you point out to them that their actions hurt, the more you’re going to encourage them because they WANT to hurt.

My hope is that we as a society not only teach our youth the power of their words and actions, but that we also strive to raise a generation of emotionally strong, self confident young people who recognize that people who hate are afraid. Afraid of your strength. That sometimes the only way they know how to build themselves up is to take you down a notch. We need to raise a generation of kids who know how amazing they are to the point that even the harshest attacks will leave nothing more than a scratch. When I shoved the kid into the chalk board, we were BOTH sent to the principle’s office. I was told that while the other kid’s actions were unacceptable, how I responded to them was as bad if 314239679x356not worse. That violence isn’t the answer. When I got back to the classroom my teacher told me the same thing and told me that I was “bigger” than that. And she was right.

Your kids are going to be told throughout their lives that they aren’t good enough, that their thoughts are wrong and will feel at times like they don’t belong. They’re not going to gel with everyone they meet. We need to teach them that just because someone thinks they can’t sing doesn’t mean they should stop singing. In fact, we should teach them to sing louder so that more people hear them. Because I promise you, there is someone out there who will think they sing like an angel. Teach them to just walk past the ones who don’t and keep looking for those that do.

So what can we do? For starters let kids know they’re not alone. Show them that they have someone else they can talk to who may be going through the same thing. The Our Place Network is a great example. Young kids talking to young kids, monitored by an adult. There’s even a weekly podcast that goes along with it where kids can call in with questions or stories and get input from other kids their age as well as non-judging adults.

Yes, teach your kids to be sensitive. Yes, coach them to be supportive when someone stumbles. But at the same time educate them to know how to pick themselves back up when they themselves stumble and there isn’t anyone around to help them. Because it will happen. They will be picked on, they will be teased, they may even be bullied and feel like the world is against them. Give them the tools and the inner strength to battle through those moments, brush themselves off and be there to help the next guy.

 

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Sick of It!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a single parent, is the fact that you are not allowed to get sick. It’s actually in the bi-laws. Chapter VII, Section IV, Paragraph III, Line II clearly states, “a temperature of 102, severe chills, cold sweats and vomiting, shall not relieve said parent of the duty of making school lunches,
sick-guyfeeding and dressing the children, ensuring teeth and hair are brushed, school field trip permission slips are
signed and everybody is out the door in time to ride the school bus.”

Forget the fact that there’s no one around to take care of you either. And as a guy, I loath doctors. Part of it is the fact that I just love paying $100 to $200 out of my pocket to have someone tell me, “you really should get some rest.”

When you’re basically the sole proprietor of your family, there’s rarely room for even a “day” of stopping. Work, kids, soccer practices, laundry, shopping, meals, all keep coming up on the schedule. E-mails keep coming, phones keep ringing, clients keep asking, bills keep arriving, kids keep needing. You were overwhelmed when you were healthy. Now what? All problems and challenges appear 15 times larger when you’re sick and have no energy.

If you’re like me, your tendency is to fight through it. As my ex used to say, “you can be miserable at home or
miserable at work.” And typically it works. I take some DayQuil, eat an orange, hydrate, get a run or two in to images-13sweat it out, and in a couple of days I’m good to go. OK, and maybe I throw some donuts and coffee in there. But as much as I try to fight it, if after a week I’m still wheezing and dragging my ass, I’ll bee line it for the Kroger clinic in hopes of getting a z-pack. It’s the only way to ensure you’re going to have the energy and the ability to forge through long term.

As a single parent you’ve grown accustomed to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But obviously; if after a week you’re still sick, your body is telling you it just isn’t able to recoup on its own and needs some help. Try to recognize when you need to stop and shut down for a day and act accordingly. If you have a kid free day coming up. Cancel your plans that you’ve been waiting two weeks for and take care of yourself. If you have the kids, get them on the bus and take a day off – from everything! When they get home, let them make you tea and tuck you in on the couch. They’ll love it and usually their behavior improves at the same time. You’ll be amazed at how just 24 hours of rest and taking care of yourself can turn things around for you. Your boss will thank you, you’ll thank you and your kids will thank you.

So: single parents who are sick and goin’ it alone: High Five! I feel ya. You’re doing great and your family is better for your efforts. I’m personally cyberly patting you on the back. Hopefully it’ll help break up that cough.

 

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Losing My Mind (and my keys)

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I’m convinced my sometimes over booked life is turning me into a complete idiot. There are days when it feels like I spend more time retracing my steps in order to remember where I left my pants than I do accomplishing my to do list. We all misplace our keys from time to time but honestly, I don’t know how many times this week I’ve stopped and called myself all kinds of names
memory36969112_crop out of frustration.

I’m proud of what I accomplish every week. It’s a lot. I consider myself incredibly productive. But man, sometimes I just stop and wonder what’s going on inside my brain. I had always had a history of laying things down in odd places and then completely forgetting. I learned over time how to stop, retrace my steps and then figure it out. And for the most part I’ve done a great job of doing it. But then there are times when I actually walk into the kitchen and completely forget why I was going there.

Does this happen to you? Do you forget things?

I remember driving to work one morning. I had just gotten off the phone with my mom and started thinking about the upcoming weekend and everything that had to get done. There were a couple of softball games, a birthday party, a project that needed some extra attention, yard work that needed to get done. Started thinking about an upcoming trip with the kids and then suddenly I realized I’d completely driven past my exit and was heading toward what was an old job I’d had seven years ago.

Stop right now, close your eyes and ask yourself what color socks you have on. Do you know? I’m telling you, our lives as single parents can really put a strain on our ability to keep up with everything. So it’s no wonder we drive off with our coffee mug on top of our car from time to time or go through seven to eight names including the dog’s before calling our kid the right one.

I would love to offer you a cure all. Like, have a place you keep your keys, wallet, phone etc. Put things you’re
DMLgroup.jpggoing need in the morning where you can find them the night before. Do crossword puzzles to exercise your brain. But honestly, I think there are just going to be days (sometimes several in a row), when you’re going to have to be aware of everything going on and give yourself a moment to stop, think and be cognizant of what you’re doing or where you’re putting something down.

It’s so easy to get so lost in our schedules and the hustle bustle of our days that we completely forget ourselves and what we’re doing. I’ve literally put dishwashing detergent in the refrigerator and have gotten out of the shower only to realize I never rinsed my hair. It’s easy to start thinking you have a brain tumor or alzheimer’s. My guess is I just overload myself from time to time and most of what I’ve read assures me that everything I’m experiencing is completely normal for a 40 something with three kids and four jobs. A lot of recent studies also show that stress is a major contributor to memory loss. And Lord knows, if you’re going through a divorce or trying to get back on track, stress just comes with the territory.

So, my only advise is to first stop every once in a while and give yourself a moment. I’ve found exercise helps on many levels. And make a point to try and recognize when you’re in a state of confusion and make an extra effort to be aware of what you’re doing. Slow your brain down a bit and try to focus. Lord knows I tell my kids to do it enough times every day. This is one instance where practicing what I preach can really come in handy.

So anyway … I’m sorry; what were we talking about?

 

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Hey Four Eyes!

When you have more than one child, life quickly becomes a multiplication equation. For example, “If one child wants to play soccer at $125 per registration and then her two siblings decide they want to play too; how many home cooked meals will dad have to prepare in order to balance the monthly family budget?”

When you consider something for one, your head automatically multiplies it by the number of children you have. So when my son decided he needed eye glasses (despite no suggestion from teacher observations or his annual physical) I immediately pulled out my Logarithm Table and began budgeting for three. Even if the
Snellen Chart.moo.Tweens.Teens.Fun.Ideas.other two had no interest they would quickly take note of the funds expended and find a way to subtly demand equal love.

So I searched out a reasonable eye exam, which ended up costing me $45.00. (We have health insurance, but I balked at vision). We took the exam and sure enough, while developmentally he was in great shape, the doctor suggested some reading glasses to help his eyes as they “developed” further. “I TOLD YOU DAD!” And off we went to pick a pair of frames.

I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you that the grand total (frames, lenses, warranty, exam, non-scratch coating etc) was over $400! I was floored. How did a $69.00 pair of frames suddenly become $400? It was double what I’d paid for my own pair a year or two ago. Trying to hold in my distain for what felt like a con job, I advised the “sales associate” that I would pay for the exam and go “shop.”

We went to a competitor and found something very similar for well under $200.00 which got me scratching my head. That seemed like quite a difference. So I did a quick search on my phone and low and behold I found Web site upon Web site of eye glass options for kids that were in the $30-$50 range. This included frame, lenses, case and a money back guarantee.

So the question was, “how is this possible?” I did more reading and sure enough, more and more people had grown tired of paying $400 for a pair of eye glasses and were turning to the internet for other ideas. And from all accounts it had become a viable option.

So, my son and I spent an hour or so looking on line at different sites and he found several he loved. Some bluegummysites have measuring tools you can download, some have options to upload a picture to see what glasses will look like on you. Some even offer to send you samples to try on. It’s amazing. The site we worked with (coastal.com) had a chat option to answer questions and walk you through the process. It was easy. It meant waiting for a week, but we turned that into a lesson on patience and being smart with your money. Eight days later my son had his glasses and was beyond excited to receive them in the mail.

All told, and I’m not making this up; the grand total for EVERYTHING was $48.00. (Quite a difference from the initial $400 plus.)

As a parent we have to be smart and sadly, trust no one. I remember walking out of the first place we stopped feeling like we were being taken for a ride. It just didn’t make sense and I was immediately being charged for the mack daddy version without any consult. They saw the excited kid and subsequently saw opportunity. That was very disappointing especially when I discovered through some simple research that even 100 yards down the hall was an option that 50% less. Even more so when I found a perfectly fine option for 90% less.

It just shows you yet again, how a little time and effort, a little research and stopping to think for a moment can provide opportunities to teach your kids (and yourself) the value of being patient and shopping around. In the end we all learned some lessons and truthfully can see the world a little more clearly.

 

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