A Great Dad

Today in the USA is Father’s Day. I can never understand what it means to be a father, but I’ve seen some not so great dads and some very great dads. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what it takes to be a great dad.

Great dads begin with interest. Great dads are willing to listen to their kids, whether it’s sitting at the dinner table or on the phone as they drive home from their second job. They’re interested in knowing what is going on in their kids’ lives, and not just from a school grades or secondhand telling, but rather from the kids themselves. Whether the kids want to share about their make believe adventure they had that day, the video game level they’re on, or about the cute girl/boy at school, most kids have lots to say and are always looking for a willing ear to chatter to. You may not understand all of what they’re talking about, but that’s OK. What matters most is that you are showing them that you care about what’s going on in their life.

Great dads are willing to invest. Great dads make time to be part of their kids’ lives. Maybe that means standing in the back at a school play, staying until or arriving at halftime, doing homework, cooking together, or adventuring outdoors, but there are countless ways that dads can participate in their kid’s lives. Just about every kid I know would rather their dad show up for a little of their special performance or game, or do a little homework with them or read one book at night rather than not be there at all. Even that little effort can make a difference.

Great dads are honest teachers. I have met some really great dads, but I have yet to find a perfect one (since no one is perfect). Everyone messes up from time to time, and sometimes the disappointments aren’t because of something you had a lot of control over, no matter how hard you try. Kids can be wise beyond their years and are usually willing to forgive you if you have a good reason for them and don’t screw up in the same way more than a couple of times. Take time to explain to them what happened or why you’ve let them down (or why you are going to let them down). You don’t have to get into great details, but taking the time to explain things to them can make a big difference. Talking with them about how you navigate life’s challenges can be some of the most helpful lessons of their lives.

None of these things require dads to put lots of money on the table or be some superhero, but they do require dads to show up. The best thing you can do as a dad today (and everyday) is to be present for your kids.  What have you learned from the dads (and kids) in your life?

We Remember

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s an important day to remember and thank the men and women who have fought for our country, and their families as well.  As I think about Memorial Day of course there’s a feeling of sadness for all those people we’ve lost over the many years of battle, as well as the family members who never got to know those people.  War isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, otherwise we might have to deal with more of it which wouldn’t be good.

But with the topic of loss on my mind recently in addition to tomorrow’s talk of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, it has me thinking once again about the loss that the world is experiencing when it comes to the past.  As much as I tend to think (and write) about the future and not about the past, or at least not about the past in the sense of dwelling on it, the past is important.  Every day more and more older folk slip further into Alzheimers and other memory-destroying diseases, every day seniors die, every day people who have great stories but have put off telling them die.  When you die or your memory is gone, your stories die, unless you’ve told them to someone or made some kind of record of them beforehand.

Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who have fought for our country, and I hope you take time tomorrow to honor those men and women.  But I can’t help adding in encouragement to also talk with your elderly relatives and friends, and even with the people your own age, and share your stories and hear theirs. Take time to share a story with your kids this weekend from the past about one of your relatives or friends and help them connect with someone they may never know. If you don’t think anyone wants to hear your stories right now you could start a blog and write all of them down for someday in the future, or you could hire someone to come and record you sharing the stories (which would be extra special for the future generations who will never meet you).  Not sure your stories are really worth telling?  I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and hear their stories, but they’ve all been lost to the sands of time in one way or another (3 dead, one with memory loss).  Their stories are special, their lives are special.  The future is built on those stories, and the relationships and events that they share about.  You and I are here because of things that happened many memories ago.

History, and the past, is more than just a random grouping of dates and facts (if that’s all it was, it would be pretty boring).  In reality history is made up of people who lived lives, enjoyed each other’s company, cried and laughed together, learned from their mistakes and had dreams, just like we do today.  Yes, sometimes remembering those we’ve lost can be painful, but the pain is a little less when we remember the good times and the stories they shared with us and memories we made together.   Who will you remember today?

The Next Generation

Early this week the world was met with the news of an explosion outside a pop singer’s concert in the UK.  Over 80 people were killed or injured, including young adults and children.  No one went to the concert asking to be killed, injured or scared.  They went to have a little fun with family and friends and hear some music.  It’s a tragedy any time someone is killed in such a violent manner, but especially when kids and young adults are killed. They are the future of our world, if we stop having babies or kill all of the young kids, there won’t be a future generation for anyone.

I don’t think violence is the answer, certainly not deadly violence if you’re part of the general population.  If you’ve got a need to be violent or let some steam out or shoot stuff, more peaceful methods like boxing or hunting can be practiced, or consider joining the military (all kinds of good men and women are always in need).  There are better ways to work out your anger or frustration at your life, others or the world in general than blowing things (and people) up.  There are also lots of needs in the world that you can redirect your energy into making a positive difference.

But more than being about the tragedy of another group of people getting killed or how the world is continuing to be bad instead of working on their good, this post is a reminder to live your life, to love your kids, be good to yourself, and enjoy each and every day.  One way would be to support one charity each month that works with that next generation, one that will help them get the education, health, or support they need to grow up to be a great generation.  Another would be to encourage the kids in your life, whether church members, extended family members, neighbors or even your own kids to be who they were born to be, to live their childhood, to enjoy life and to be a person who makes them proud to be themselves.  It’s never too early to start making a difference in the world, what kids are you most proud of?

Having Fun with the Family

This week I’ve been thinking about being yourself, and one of the places we should be able to be ourselves is with our families.  So today I thought we’d take a look at 3 things that should happen as a family.  I realize that not every family situation is ideal, and that you may only have fun with the family you live with and not your extended family, or only with the people you call family but not your blood-family.  This post isn’t about dealing with those types of family complications, instead we’re thinking about this month’s theme: fun!

Family should have fun together.  Family should be a place where we can laugh, joke, play, and generally enjoy life. Family should be there for each other through thick and thin, but more than anything family should come together to make great memories.  My family wasn’t really the annual-summer-BBQ-everyone-comes-over type, but the few times I did see extended family over the years were special times.  Of course now we’re able to connect virtually in many ways that weren’t available years ago, but those in person get togethers are something special that can’t be replicated online.  After all, no one makes that special favorite food dish like that one family member, or has the best stories like that one family member, or always brings special gifts like that other family member.

Family should be able to be silly together.  You’ve seen those videos where the mom or dad is making faces at the baby and talking in a really funny voice and you think that would never be you, only when you have your kids you’re doing the exact same thing with very little or no shame?  That’s what family should be!  We should be able to be silly and goofy, and yes there will be laughter, but you’ll all be laughing together, not at each other.

Family should be the place you’re safe to be yourself.  When you share news with family yes, they may have a surprise reaction initially, but when it comes down to it, they should support you with whatever decisions you make in your life and whomever you are (unless of course you’re planning to hurt yourself, then they should guide you into getting help). But there shouldn’t be any judgment if you want purple hair or a tattoo or work a farm for a job or or like techno music or adopt a child even if you’re not married or with a partner.

As we gear up for Memorial Day weekend here in the US and the start of summer, I encourage you to make time for fun in your family, especially if you’ve been working through heartache recently.  What fun do you have with your family?

Fun for Moms

This month one of the things we’re talking about is having fun, and of course today in the US we’ve got Mother’s Day. Some of us don’t think about Moms being fun, they just try to ruin our fun, right?! And if you’re a mom you may be having difficulty trying to remember the last time you had fun, or the last time you had some adult fun.  Whenever a kid is brought into the world it’s someone’s responsibility to care for them, whether it’s their biological mom and/or dad or a family member or an adopted family.  You know I’m a supporter of having a village raise a child and not just depending on the human or humans who brought that child into the world.  One of the reasons is that it’s more fun for the child when they get to interact with other children of the “village,” but it also gives the parents a chance to be parents and have adult friends and get a time-out from being a parent on occasion.

If you’re a mom and it’s been a long time since you’ve had fun I want to encourage you to start making that a part of your life.  Maybe that means drinks (coffee/tea or alcohol) with the girls once a month.  Maybe that means reinstating the weekly date with your partner.  Maybe that means hiring a sitter to give you a couple of hours off each week so you can shower alone, shave your legs or do food shopping without “helpful” second opinions.  Maybe it means watching another family’s kids for a few hours and they watching yours on another day so even more moms get a few hours off.  Maybe it means being more creative and getting the kids involved in your preferred hobbies and interests like gardening, painting, garage sale shopping or car repair.

If you’re feeling guilty for wanting a little fun, let’s get some perspective.  First, everyone needs to have fun and take a break from the challenges, disappointments, hurts and frustrations that come through our lives.  Second, if all your kids see you doing is stressing out and being unhappy, what do you think they’ll think about life?  I wouldn’t want to grow up if all it meant was that I’d be miserable and unhappy.  Yes, you need to teach them responsibility and how to care for themselves, but I believe that part of that is learning proper stress relief and that it’s OK to have fun as part of your life all life-long.  What fun will you have this week?

I Choose Fun

A new month has arrived and this month we’ll be talking about a very important topic: fun! Of course there will be lots of fun ideas shared on the creativity blog as always, but we’ll also be taking a look at applying the concept of fun to our lives, families and businesses on this blog as well. We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the more serious stuff and about improving our lives because it’s important, and through that success we can have more resources to spend on the fun things of life. But sometimes we let the serious stuff take over our lives and we forget what our real goal is in all of it, and why we’re working as hard as we are.

Yes, we’ll talk about some more serious topics as they relate to having fun this month, but I really want to encourage you to work on finding more balance in your life. Why? Because as adults I don’t think all of us really are as intentional about having fun and really enjoying life as we should be. We have a ton of responsibilities and the constant changes in the world around us may encourage us to work when/while the money’s good.  And that’s a valid point because I do encourage you to have financial reserves, build them up when you’re not spending a lot and also plan for the future.  But when we don’t take any or enough time for fun our productivity and ability to succeed can suffer.

So the place I would encourage you to start this month is with your attitude and being open to having fun.  Don’t feel guilty if you take a day off to go on a field trip with one of your kids.  Don’t kick yourself for taking one morning off from the gym to be with your partner instead.  Don’t look at fun as an option somewhere down the road, choose to make fun an active and consistent part of your life today.

Earth Day Plans

This week as we approach Earth Day I’m thinking about going green!  Today I’ve got a few ways you can go green and take care of our earth and celebrate this special day.  After all, I want the earth to stick around for at least a few more years, don’t you?

1-take action in your community.  There are lots of ways you can do this, from cleaning up litter and removing dead plants and trees to planting trees and flowers to putting up bird houses and even bee hives to encourage the natural population of your area

2-if you’re not able to go out and physically help in your community, there are tons of petitions online you can sign to support environmental initiatives online.  From organics to GMOs to smog and endangered species, there are tons of great causes you can support.

3-in line with the previous idea there are tons of earth-friendly organizations who would really appreciate a donation.  Even organizations like PETA and Charity: Water have an earth-focused mission that would benefit, you don’t just have to look to the more political organizations.

4-I love my hot showers so I’m not really willing to give them up, so if you’re like me that’s not one way you want to help save the earth.  But you can however wash your clothes in cold water.  They won’t complain and it will save your energy bill too!

5-if you’re looking for a spring refresh for your house there are tons of garage and yard sales that have begun with the favorable change in weather.  Not only are you saving a few dollars, you’re also saving the landfills from some items that would be in them for many years to come.  (And if you’re having a yard sale and everything doesn’t sell there are lots of local organizations who can benefit from the left over items too).

What are you planning this week to celebrate Earth Day and honor this place we all live?

Choosing Love

Love is a powerful emotion.  Emotion might even be too weak a word to use to describe what love is, because love is more than feeling happy, or sad; love lasts, endures and exists through those times of highs and lows.  Love makes our happiness conditional on the other person’s happiness.  Simply, love means we want those we love happy, and if they’re not happy we’re not either.  This is one area where all of the technological advancements of the past few decades have really made a big impact: it’s even easier to spread the love around even when we can’t be that physical shoulder to cry on.  You can send love through a Facebook or email message, a quick tweet or text, or send it over as a big photograph.

One of the greatest abilities love has is the ability to tear down barriers of loneliness and separation.  The only reason distance relationships work ever is because the love in that relationship is powerful and well developed.  Love doesn’t consider our differences, it just sees people and hearts.  Love isn’t concerned with politics or culture, it just wants to break down walls.  When we let love in it can do powerful things in our lives and in the lives of those connected with us.

However, it’s not just about being loved, it’s about loving too.  It’s one reason people who suffer from depression are told to get pets or do community service or spend time with kids: you feel better when you’re spreading love and helping others.  But just like many other things in our lives, love is a choice.  It’s a choice we have to make on a daily (or hourly) basis.  It’s a choice no one can make for us, and one we can’t make for them.  If you don’t want to feel alone, do something about it!  Choose to accept the love that is all around you and make it part of your life.

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  John Bulwer

Planning for a Healthy Spring

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to talk about getting healthy!

Get out: it’s finally nice enough to spend a lot of time outside!  You can go on walks, go hiking, train for a marathon, play in the backyard, go to a park, visit a nature center near you and even eat your lunch outside!  Fresh air makes you feel better, whether you’re exercising or even just sitting outside.

Eat right: eat a fruit or veggie with each meal, and in between too.  Whether it’s a salad, side of corn or banana, fruits and veggies are usually an easy option with lots of good vitamins, minerals and fuel for your body.  Take time this spring and summer to visit local farmer’s markets and farms near you and get locally grown produce.  You’ll be supporting your community and getting good food too.  Don’t forget to try some of the delicious seasonal produce that’s available now too!

Get rest: many of us don’t really know what our body needs in the way of sleep and rest, and even if we do, we don’t always get it.  Know how many hours of sleep you need, and do your best to get it.  An unrested body doesn’t function as well as a rested one.  It’s also important to take time out to just sit and relax too.  Our bodies aren’t designed to be on the go 24/7.  They have to rest too!

Power your mind: in our on-the-go societies, we are subjected to thousands of messages each day, whether at work, on the computer, on our phones, while driving, at the store, in the newspapers and on TV.  This also means you’ve got tons of choices about what you choose to be exposed to.  Granted, you can’t block out all the bad stuff, but you can be particular about what you and your kids watch and see at home.  Yes, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world and be socially aware, but you don’t have to be a news or TV junkie to do OK in the world.

Get involved: Finally, the last piece to being healthy is being involved in the community.  Join the community pool, help at a community garden, go out with 3 or 4 other couples, bring your kids to the park with your friends, and have play dates.  Getting your kids involved with other people, going on group dates, and being part of your community are all an important part of having a healthy life.

I encourage you this week to do a family checkup: plan and make changes in your lives to eat, live and work in your communities and at home.  Together we can make the world a healthier place!

When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.