Being a Dad Who Loves

The past few months have shown some really good examples and some really not good examples of humanity. A lot of it has been encouraging because people are stepping up and seeing or accepting or understanding issues that they haven’t been willing to deal with, from seemingly simple issues of product chains to serious issues of racial discrimination. Something that we haven’t been talking about much though is about parenting, and the role that it plays in setting up the future for all of us.

Any adult is technically responsible for the growth and education of the next generation. The way we each act in the stores we visit or the places we go and how we interact with others online all sets an example for anyone and everyone to see. We may not be picking out the food kids eat or doing homework with them, but as we know there’s a lot more that goes into becoming a wise adult who contributes to society and our future.

One of the most important things is love. We can’t always provide our kids with everything that we would like to, we can’t always be there for them or give them the same step up that other parents can. But it doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t take extensive amounts of time, or tons of effort to show them love. When you start with love anything else is possible. Having a foundation of love helps people work through the inevitable mistakes and failures that happen as we live and learn and work and live together.

So this Father’s Day, I encourage you dads especially to choose love. Show your kids that you love them, let them know you are thankful for their love, and take time to be with each other whether virtually or in person and have more experiences that will create lasting memories and help all of you learn more about living with love.

Art, Stories and Love

Our world is going through a profound period of loss right now, including many legendary people, too many to give proper homage to all of them. But this week the world lost one of my personal favorites, someone that I’ve loved since I was a child: Tomie dePaola. He was an incredible writer and illustrator of children’s books, over 260 of them. One of the things I love about his work is that he brought to life so many incredible cultural stories including “Legend of the Indian Paintbrush,” “The Quilt Story,” “Legend of the Pointsettia,” and “Night of Las Posadas.” He also ventured into challenging topics such as getting old and death that are things that children struggle to comprehend. I’m thankful for the many words, images and stories that Tomie told throughout his life, and my life is richer because I read his stories.

One of the themes that’s consistent throughout his work is that he included hearts in his book and signed his first name with a heart. Regardless of the holidays you celebrate, the culture you connect with, or the stories that resonate with you, we can all connect with the idea of love. Love connects us with invisible bonds that can stand the test of time, and become unbreakable when we truly tend to them.

In this difficult time we’re facing it’s giving many of us the opportunity to strengthen our love bonds. My partner and I were saying the other day that there’s no one we’d rather face this with than each other. I hate that the tragic events of the past few months (starting with the crash of Kobe Bryant and 8 others in January and continuing with this virus) have been the motivations behind encouraging not just my family but other families around the US to get better connected and share their love with each other in whatever ways we can. Yes, science and caring for our communities will help us get through this challenge and all others we face in the future, but what will make the difference between thriving in the future and being scarred enough to be held back will be love.

We can’t bring the thousands of people that we’ve lost to the virus or other causes back to life, but we can choose what we do with our futures. The world needs more people like Tomie dePaola to share stories and love, and their unique gifts with the world. Each of us has a talent or contribution to make, and it’s easier than ever to do so thanks to the internet and availability of other resources. While you’re home and the world is recovering, I encourage both you and your kids to share some love with the world. Maybe that means doing some planting in your yard to care for the earth and cheer up your neighbors. Maybe that means posting pictures of creative drawings and art projects on social media to spread smiles. Maybe that means baking food for a first responder. Maybe that means doing tons of reading and learning so that you can help rebuild our world. Maybe it means telling someone that you’re thankful for them. Maybe that means being a good listener and being supportive to someone who’s struggling right now. Maybe it means writing down the stories you want shared with future generations.

What stories (whose stories) are you thankful for?

Teaching Love to the Next Generation

As an adult in the world, parent or not, one of our most important jobs is to prepare the next generation to be adults in the world. Maybe that means making sure they don’t turn out a certain way, or maybe that means helping them do even better than we’ve done, but it’s something you should care about and invest in if you have any interest in what the future of the world looks like. Some people do learn by doing and learning what does or doesn’t work for them, but there’s always something to be said for setting a good example for others and showing them by how you live how and interact with others they should live.

This month a lot of the conversation has been about love, and while there isn’t always a fairy tale ending, love in the real world does often resemble romantic movies wherein people meet, are attracted to each other, want to spend time together, and do face some challenges together. Love isn’t some perfect walk down a country road, it’s more like a roller coaster with ups and downs, some excitement and some fears, and some really great times. Life is rarely all easy or all perfect for any of us, so why would we expect that love would be that way? It certainly brings strength and beauty to our lives, but the job of love isn’t to make life perfect.

But as anyone who has experienced true love will tell you, they’d rather have love for however long they can have it than not to know love. But the word “love” is often misused by people who are abusers or other times meant for an emotion much less real than true love, so what do we teach the next generation when it comes to love? I think we start with showing them how grateful we are for the love we do have when we have it, and not sugarcoating when love isn’t so perfect. Don’t hide the fact that you and your significant other have struggles or disagreements, but don’t drag the kids into them or stay together if all you do is argue and aren’t loving. Continue to educate the next generation about love by being generous with love and when it comes to those you love, not so that you are taken advantage of, but because it’s rewarding to give to those you love.

How do you show what love really is to the next generation?

Any Excuse for Love

Valentine’s Day is finally here! It’s the day the US has declared is the day of love. Some might say that Christmas or Easter is the day of love, but that’s a different topic for another day, and today I’m excited to be here with you thinking about love and how we can experience more of it in our lives. This month a couple of times on the blog and in my newsletters I’ve mentioned that we only have one day really dedicated to love. Who can survive on one day a year of love alone and why would you want to? Of course, if that’s the only option, that’s better than not having any love ever, but who really wants to only have love in their life one day of the year?

This year already we’ve lost some well-known people, and you may have been among those that like myself have lost someone you’ve loved or known. Death is never an easy experience to navigate for either the person dying or those who love them, but it’s the moments of love and life experiences that they share that help make the process a little easier.  You can never get that person back, so maybe it’s time that we stop thinking we have forever with someone and start living like we have the limited time with them that we have?

So today I encourage you to not let Valentine’s Day be the only day you celebrate or participate in love. Work harder on incorporating love into your everyday life. Make it something you do because it’s special to you and a privilege to have in your life, rather than something that the greeting card and candy companies say you have to do. Let the little moments turn into treasures rather than letting them pass you by. This Valentine’s Day, for the next 365 days I encourage you to accept and look for any and every excuse to love.

Doing Valentine’s Day Right?

Valentine’s Day is less than a week away, do you have plans with your significant other and/or a gift for them? The other day I was listening to the radio and they were talking about the iconic red heart box with chocolates in it that appears each Valentine’s Day and so may people gift along with flowers and jewelry. I find it a bit funny that Valentine’s Day has a traditional gift but no other holidays do (unless you’re giving coal at Christmas). But humor and specific gifts aside, it is healthy and important to celebrate your relationship with your significant other, so today I thought we’d talk a bit about that celebration.

The iconic red heart box got me thinking about what we do with Valentine’s Days. Do we stick with the traditional expensive restaurant and heart box/flowers/tie gifts because we love them and find it special or it brings up a treasured memory for us, or maybe it’s time to be honest about how different each of us are and how we throw out most of the heart box chocolates because we only like some, or hate spending so much on a restaurant, or hate being obligated to only have that specific day to celebrate our relationships.

So what if this year you did something different? Maybe for you that is going to the fancy restaurant and doing the heart-box chocolates. Or maybe you would add more to your relationship if you went back to a place you went on one of your early dates. Or maybe you would find more value in finally tackling a home project together. Or maybe visiting a therapist would be more honoring to your relationship. Or maybe you try a new restaurant and/or activity each year to honor how your relationship has changed and developed over time.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the relationship that we’re in, but it’s also an opportunity to honor love and the role it has in our lives. No two relationships look the same, so why should we all celebrate in the exact same way?  Do what is right for your relationship at the stage of the journey that you are at.  How will you honor your relationship with your significant other?

Knowing You’re Loved

My partner is home recovering from what I hope to be his final knee surgery, so as I was in the kitchen cutting up strawberries I thought about the fact that I didn’t really know how he ate strawberries. Obviously, it’s not a big deal and so I just cut them as I thought he might like them, but it got me thinking about February and Valentine’s Day and the topic of love, and how we know if we’re loved.

Even back when we were kids we would pass notes around that said things like ‘do you like me circle one: yes/no.’ As simple as they are and as silly as they were, those notes were a great declaration of love or interest when the person replied in the affirmative, and great examples and opportunities of communication. This month you will hopefully hear and read some really great love stories, from those in articles and on news stories to books and even billboards. Every love story is different, and not all of them have a happy ending, but we can learn something important from each of them, just like we learn from these simple notes as a kid how important it is to communicate our love to each other.

Most of us aren’t professional writers, we don’t write romance books for a living, and every relationship has ups and downs (hopefully more ups than downs, of course). But do the people you love know that you love them? Yes, you can show them that you love them through a thousand different actions, but the words are so important as well. Beyond ‘I love you,’ it’s important to say things like ‘you matter to me,’ ‘I thought about you today,’ ‘I appreciate you,’ and ‘I’m glad you’re here.’

Do the people in your life like your significant other and your kids/family, know that you love them? Do you tell them and show them from the big gestures and words to small ways and simple moments? Make it your goal this month to let the people in your life know that you love them.

The Gift of Love

There are so many things we could pull from this time of year to talk about regarding success. Like how businesses get people to buy stuff this time of year under the guise of giving gifts and getting great deals. Or how we talk about and celebrate the holidays for a month or more before we get to the actual holiday, allowing for sufficient time for planning, gathering and gift-purchasing. Or we could talk about how the holidays encourage people to spend time in community and do good for others (and it actually happens). Or we could talk about how the holidays allow many of us to end the year on a positive note, something that may not ring true for the rest of the year.

But today I want to talk about the success of getting love and community into our lives and into the lives of others. Whether you celebrate Christmas (religious), Christmas (secular), Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, this time of year is one of celebration and gathering together. We each celebrate something a little different, but with each holiday we’re invited to turn on or light some lights and gather together to celebrate. For several thousand years we’ve been celebrating Christmas (religious) and Hanukkah, Christmas (secular) for the past several hundred, and Kwanzaa for the last 50 or so years, taking time to set aside any differences or struggles we may have, remembering the good times and making new memories together. Anything that gets people of all cultures and backgrounds to stop and be more considerate of others year in and year out is worth talking about.

I’m willing to take on all the commercialization, crowded roads, spending, and some extra stress because more people are polite, more people are helpful, and more people show how they care unlike other times of the year. The time we take to purchase exactly the right gift for someone, make someone’s favorite foods (including special cookies), and lengths we travel to be together are all evidence of the fact that we do care about each other, even if we aren’t always willing to admit it. We may wrap our love up in the activities and actions of the season, but when all the trappings and trimmings are removed, when we stop moving and eating and sit, when the gifts are all unwrapped, what it comes down to is love for each other.

With the holiday season in full gear, I encourage you to make time to think about love and let that be the best gift you give or get this holiday season.

Love without Strings

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”  Wayne Dyer

I’ve shared before about the importance of letting your kids have their own dreams, dreams that can make a positive impact on the world.  But the truth is that all of us need that allowance: we all need to have our own dreams and make our own place in the world.  Yes, we can do it by fighting to show the world who we are aggressively, but when we do it with love there’s a lot more potential for us and our world, and a lot less damage to clean up and repair too.

The first place that we need more love is with our families.  It’s easy to pick a fight with them because they’re always there and we know them so well and they know us so well, but those are also good reasons to love them even more.  When we have more loving families it will be easier to spread love throughout the world because we’ll have a more stable foundation to work with.

The other reminder Dr. Dyer shares here is that no one has to satisfy you, that’s not their job or mission in life, nor should you require it to be.  If you’re not satisfied with things it’s up to you to change them, and sometimes that means changing the people in your life (note: if you change the people in your life and you’re still unhappy it’s a pretty clear indication that you are what needs to change, not them).

In this coming week I encourage you to love more, argue less, and make decisions that not only make you happy but are good for your future and the future of the world too.

Giving Love a Chance

As I was thinking about the topic of love today I got to thinking about one of the greatest challenges and opportunities with love, something that we don’t always remember: love doesn’t give up. Do you believe that love will always come back for more, always be there when you turn around, always be something you can reach for, always stay with you and always be there to guide you?

Love isn’t something you wake up with one day and don’t have the next. If you do it wasn’t love. Love won’t allow you to give up on someone no matter how irrational it may seem. Love also won’t allow you to give up on yourself and your dreams. Love is here to stay.

The issue comes in because we’re so persistent in trying to keep love out of our lives or not working with love and the changes that life brings and being committed to love and our significant other. We’ve refused so many times and in so many ways to allow love to have the role it should in our lives. It’s not easy to let love in our lives, in fact it takes a lot of work, change and communication (I know, 3 big favorites for just about everyone). But when it comes down to it, love’s enduring qualities are always worth it.

Are you truly giving your love with your partner a chance? We’ve all been hurt before but hurt is part of the human experience, just like love is. But if you don’t give love the opportunity to work in your life you’ll never know the amazing blessings and opportunities you’ll have because of it.  If you and your partner need to sit down this week and talk about your love and how you’ll move forward together in your relationship I encourage you to do that.  The longer you wait to talk about it, the harder it will be to fix it and get you back to a point of thriving.

Celebrating Moms Who Live and Love

With Mother’s Day just a few hours away I wanted to share a quote with you from Mahatma Gandhi that I feel really speaks to the best that moms can be:

“Where there is love there is life.”

We’ve talked in the past about moms that are that because of biology only, that they have no influence on their offspring after they were born or their influence was so negative that as soon as possible the child (adult) has no more contact with her. That’s not the mom I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the best moms, the moms that we have fond memories of, that helped shape us, helped inspire us, and have taught us valuable lessons that help us live and thrive. It’s these moms that I want to celebrate and thank today.

Moms aren’t perfect, no one is, but moms teach us something that can help us see beyond the mistakes and learn to forgive in most situations; that something is love. When we learn to love the world opens up to us. It gives us the strength to forgive others, to be the better person, to choose relationships that are good for us, to do our best raising the next generation (and caring for the world that we leave them).

There are lots of different ways you can live, different experiences we can have during our lives. What matters most is that we choose to live and love above all else. I believe if we choose life (for ourselves, others and the planet we share) and love everything else will work itself out and we’ll be happier and healthier. I’m thankful for the moms who live love day in and day out, who helped us get to this point in our lives. I encourage you to give back to a mom you love this Mother’s Day.