Friday, November 27, 2015

And Then There Was Jack

It has been a week since we met Jack and our lives have been turned upside-down, inside-out, pushed sideways and ties into knots, all in the best possible way. He has filled up an emptiness I didn’t realize was there. Yes, I wanted to be a dad, but I really didn’t expect it to be like this. It’s one of those things that now that I am in it, I don’t even remember what I expected. The house is filled with laugher, tickles, Legos, Lincoln Logs, books, batman socks and the occasional whines of “Why do I have to eat THAT?”

We have three boxers and the youngest one, Mia, adopted him the moment he walked in the door. Even when my nephews would stay the night, Mia never slept upstairs with them the entire night. That all changed when Hack came home. Mia sleeps with him, cuddles with him and spends her day playing with him and making him laugh. She has always been the dog that most takes on someone’s emotions and John are I are both really hoping that her bond with Jack will help him adjust and work through all the things we know are coming.

Right after I had the stroke in Tanzania, Ulco bought me a stuffed penguin when he went to South Africa. In those days when I was angry and afraid, I took a lot of comfort cuddling with that penguin when I was alone. On his first evening here, Jack saw it in the closet and asked if he could play with it. Since then, we have built a penguin habitat, he has named her Rosey and he takes her everywhere. It is so great to see how he takes care of her. I told him the story of how she took care of me when I was sad and scared and that made him smile.

Yestrday I took Jack to Valley of Fire and taught him how to use my old camera. We went on a couple of hikes but instead of being in Valley of Fire, we were on Mars and instead of a car, we had a spaceship. Right now, he is upstairs with my nephews in a fort we just built, playing with action figures and having a great time. He is really coming out of his shell and it is great to see.

We know he has a lot to deal with. He has been through a lot and dealt with more than any 7 year old should ever have to. The thought of it all is more than intimidating, but this week has really given me faith that we can make a difference in his life. He has certainly made a difference in ours.

There was a time when we were getting so frustrated with the process of being matched with the right child and jack really is the perfect one for us. His personality is a great mix of John’s and mine. He does some of the same things we used to do when we were young. It really makes me smile to hear him singing to himself and it is such an honor getting to know him. I really hope that this works out to be our forever family.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A New Old Journey

Several years ago, I stumbled into the world of leadership development and coaching, thanks to my friend Sytske. A mutual friend of ours suggested we have a cup of coffee as Sytske wanted a bit of advice on her business and thought I might be able to help her a little. What was supposed to be just a cup of coffee, ended up changing my life and that change is still happening today. We ended up becoming business partners, and it didn’t last very long due to the fact that I just wasn’t ready. I wanted to be and I thought I was, but looking back, I just wasn’t.

I went into it with the wrong attitude, and more importantly, I started teaching and communicating it, but I wasn’t living it and before long, on my end, things began to unravel and there was no choice but for me to bow out of what Sytske and I were trying to build. I had learned a very valuable lesson, there is no way to succeed while pretending. I spoke about things like authenticity while at the same time not being very authentic at all. I eventually learned that I couldn’t ‘do’ authentic. It might seem obvious, but I really didn’t get it back then.

A lot has happened between then and now. I can honestly say that I have been pulled apart, stripped to the core and rebuilt. I have spent much of the last several years questioning, examining and rebuilding pretty much every part of my life, much of it here on this blog. There were many times I hated it, times I wasn’t sure I would make it through, and often times I wasn’t sure I wanted to make it through.

Now, a part of my life has come full circle. I am one again, or maybe really for the first time, entering the world of leadership development and coaching. Many of the things I used to know from books, I now know from experience. All those years ago, I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable. Now, after everything I’ve gone through and shared, I have nothing to hide. There are things I have chosen not to share, but that is different than hiding.

Two weeks ago, I joined the John Maxwell Team. I am going through the certification process now and it feels like a great fit for me. Now, instead of reading or learning something and getting it in theory, I really get it. So much of what I discovered on my journey the past few years is now resurfacing in was that let me see it differently. Some of those things I will be sharing in time. This really feels different than before.

One of my favorite classes I love to do at the Nevada Women’s Business Center is “Start With Why”, using materials from the author, Simon Sinek. I really know what my “why” is. And I have the “how” and the “what” all lined up as well. The first time around, my “why” was money, on being “seen” a certain way. My “why” was a lot of ego. This time, I am focused on making a difference and adding value. Money will come, but instead of being the focus, it will be a result of a different goal.

It was over ten years ago that I met Sytske for a cup of coffee. While our business didn’t work out for me, that cup of coffee started me on a path that has made a difference. Many of the conversations we had pondered all those years ago came back and got me through so many rough times. Going through those last few years, I had a lot of support from the outside, but the bulk of what needed doing was internal and I was the only person that could do anything about it. I could often hear Sytske’s voice asking me questions as she would often do, the ones that would make me think and get me to look at things differently. Sometimes I liked the questions I would hear her ask and other times, she was downright annoying in all those conversations I had with myself. Sometimes it’s the most annoying and uncomfortable questions we need the most. She definitely has a gift and by sharing it with me, she helped more than either of us could have ever imagined. Once again, I am amazed by the way a seemingly random encounter can have such an impact on someone. It makes me so aware that anything I do, not matter how seemingly insignificant, might be the thing that changes everything for someone or myself.

Having no idea what I was rally going to write, it seems this is as much about starting a new phase in my life as it is about the gratitude I have for knowing Sytske.

So, Sytske, thank you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Time for a Change

I love it when people have opinions, thoughts and beliefs that are different from mine. I enjoy being able to have healthy conversations that explore the world around us while exchanging views, ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, so many people are not interested in the conversation, they are interested in being right, having the one right view, the one right belief and have no interest in exploring, growing or even entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, there is a different reality out there they know nothing about.

I see it all day, every day. There are times when there is nothing I can do about it, except take full control and accountability for my actions and words and try to not get bogged down in the mire of negativity, anger and hatred. There are other times when I do have the choice to do something. I am careful about what I watch on TV or what movies I see. I’ve noticed that if I take in too much violence, anger and hatred on TV, it affects my mood and my reactions. I have learned that, for me at least, what I consume sets the stage for how I react both externally and internally.

Which brings me to Facebook. I know there is a lot going on the world today and I know a lot of people, including myself, have some very strong opinions about issues. From Obama to Caitlyn Jenner to unemployment, healthcare, terrorism, the environment and the list goes on, we all have opinions. Many of those things are things we don’t understand and historically, we humans don’t like what we don’t understand. And too often, we don’t want to understand what we don’t understand. It is easier to hate it, to push for its destruction.  

On a daily basis, I see so much anger, hatred and disrespect on Facebook and I have noticed it really affects my mood and how I act during the day. One thing I love about my life is that I know people from all different places and all sorts of life experiences. I really enjoy when a conversation is started that facilitates learning. I am working with a group right now to help them start a business and we spend a few minutes of each class talking about race, talking about things that most people can’t or won’t talk about. It’s wonderful to have a real conversation, with no anger, no finger pointing, no blame or guilt, just an open exchange of ideas and experiences. I have learned a lot from those types of moments.

While I love the differing opinions of people and I truly believe that we should all be able to express what we think and believe and question what we don’t understand, I do not believe the “I’m right, you’re wrong” blaming type of dialogue that lacks any type of respect or empathy is ever appropriate. Tell me your opinions and respect mine. When people take the “my way or the highway” approach, it does nothing but build walls, create division and further the gap between people of differing minds.

I decided this morning that I am not going to accept it any longer in places where I have a choice. Facebook is one of those places. To anyone I am friends with on Facebook, I value your opinion. I value and respect your beliefs even when I disagree or don’t understand them. They are what make us individuals. I do not, however, want to see hatred and disrespect. I don’t want to see things that have been posted just to anger or belittle other people. There is enough of that out there in the world and I am making the choice to keep it as out of my life wherever possible.

Instead of getting angry or dwelling on a comment or post that is meant to do nothing more than spread the misery, I will no longer respond to it beyond blocking and un-friending. I get angry too. I get scared at times. There are many things I don’t like or understand. I do understand I have a choice. I have a choice and I choose for respect and dignity of others.

I invite others to do the same. Think about what you write. Think about who it might affect. Think about a person who may be struggling with something. It may be the person next to you. The person you think you know best that you perhaps don’t know as well as you think you do. Think about what your child or best friend might be going through and then think about that thing your want to post on Facebook. As an uncle and soon to be dad, I think about what I am passing on, what example I am setting. I know I fall short and that is part of being human. I don’t strive to be right, I strive to learn, to be authentic and live in a place of integrity. To me, that means taking responsibility for my actions and words.

It is possible to have an opinion and to hold true to your beliefs and values without losing respect for others.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I spent days debating with myself whether or not I should call my mom. Each time I call or stop by, I always hope that maybe that time will be different, maybe something will have changed, maybe she’ll have some sort of break-through. It usually ends up the same way and even if all goes really well, it is as though the countdown to disaster has begun. It is only a matter of time before the good transforms into something unhealthy, volatile and toxic.

The few weeks leading up to Easter and a couple after that, she seemed at least a little happy. She was actually kind. I tried to see the situation as positive, yet history has shown me countless times, that it is only a matter of when, not if, the bombs would start going off and once again, there would be piles of emotional debris to sort through.

That day was yesterday. I phoned to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Honestly, it wasn't that I really wanted to, I just thought I should do it to keep the good trend going and not provide her with any more ammunition. I decided before I dialed her number that I would cut the conversation short if it took a negative turn. I can’t control or even influence her emotional swings, but I can control my actions and reactions and I decided that I would end the call before getting caught up in something I didn't want to be involved in or saying things I knew I would feel guilty about or regret.

It started about two minutes into the conversation and rapidly plunged off the cliff. As usual, my part of the conversation was mostly limited to “uh-huh, uh-huh, ok, uh-huh” as she rambles from topic to topic. I won’t go into the details of the conversation and they just aren’t worth reliving or distributing. I stayed true to my commitment to end the call by simply saying that I needed to go, which was met with her yelling “Happy Mother’s Day to you too!” to me in a very angry tone before she hung up.

I have been struggling with this relationship for decades and each time, I feel smashed each time it comes to this point. I was going to tell her that I am going to be a dad soon, and then decided not to. This is one of the most exciting adventures I have been on and I don’t want that experience tarnished.

Once again, I am debating whether or not it is worth continuing. Part of me wants to shut the door and seal it off. Part of me wonders if I am giving up too easy. Everyone who has experienced my relationship with my mom first-hand has told me I need to end it. Everyone who has heard the stories is always surprised when they meet her. Surprised that while they thought I was exaggerating, the quickly learn I was downplaying it all.

I haven’t made the decision yet. I want to. I don’t want to. Why I keep feeling torn between these extremes is something that has confused me for a very long time. Now, because of the fostering classes I am taking, I understand it a bit more. If I cut all ties from her, then I am letting go of hope. Letting go of that “maybe” I have been chasing for so long. I am letting go of the idea I have of my mom, the one where she is the person I would like her to be. The person I believe she will never be.

I don’t know what kind of father I will be. I like to think I will be a cool parent, like Ken or Christina. I know there will be arguments and tough times. I also know I will never make them feel the way my mom has made me feel. They will never wonder if they are loved. I will never give them reason to doubt that they are anything less than perfectly enough, just as they are.