Star Wars Episode 7: Dads are not Droids

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …
… Daddy Brain’s children thought he was a droid.

At least that what it seems like sometimes. Like most kids, mine are constantly demanding my attention – either to play, eat, bathe, or break up an argument about something that nobody will remember 20 minutes from now.

All in all, I love my role as a Work At Home Dad. But alas, I am not a droid. I can not recharge my battery in one hour like my iPhone. And I struggle with processing all the input that streams into my brain all day long. Working on growing my speaking career, caring for my boys, my wife and myself – not to mention actually mowing the lawn every once in a while is a constant struggle. And it’s exhausting.

I was speaking with a friend the other day and he told me that my quest for “balance” was impossible – especially if I’m constantly trying to have a balance between work, family and self on a daily basis. I think he’s right. Quite frankly, everything is cyclical – whether I want it to be or not. Sometimes the focus needs to be on work. Other times on play.

Above all, I need to recognize when my wife or kids need me. Although this is paramount over the former two things, it’s sometimes difficult because it involves being flexible. And being flexible means occasionally letting go of what I have planned. Finally, I need to make sure I take good care of myself so I can do all of these things well, and have a clear head to know where to direct my attention first.

Like my good friend, R2D2 the astromech droid, all I can do is my best.

May the force be with you.

And remember, you are not alone …

Acting with Kindness & Patience isn’t Always Easy …

The other day I got to thinking about how I’d like to treat my family vs. how I actually treat them. I found a disparity between the two, and realized I have some work to do if I want to give my wife and boys more of the following:

– Respect
– Love
– Understanding
– Wisdom
– Knowledge
– Belief in themselves
– Nurturing
– A feeling of being protected
– A feeling of being cared for
– Financial comfort

I share these thoughts with you because in the face of exhaustion and stress, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what’s most important in our lives. Taking a moment to be mindful about how we treat our family can help us refocus.

The result? A happier, healthier personal (not to mention professional) life.

And remember, you are not alone …

Embrace Your Freedom (or Happy 4th of July)


July 4th, 2010

This morning, I got to thinking about the freedom we have in our country.

Unlike with communism or a dictatorship, where there is less choice, Americans have the freedom to create and live the life of their dreams.

But there’s a problem.

Although America offers people freedom, many people shackle themselves within the belief of limitation – that they are either not worthy or not capable of fulfilling their personal legend. Even though they’re given freedom, they accept tyranny. And they are their own tyrant.

Even though I’m a motivational speaker and I believe that anything is possible, I sometimes fall into the trap of limitation. It’s an ugly trap that tries to push away the things we want, and make us believe that the attainable is out of reach. On this 4th of July I wanted implore you to listen to your heart, not the lie of limitation, and follow your dreams. If you don’t know what they are, click here to figure them out.

Remember, at one time America was the little guy, while Britain was a powerful country. Odds were that we were going to lose. Yet we still won our freedom, the very freedom you hold in your hands today.

What will you do with yours?

Even if you feel like an underdog, you have the power and the right to live your dreams.

And remember, you are not alone …

Where’s the Dad in Toy Story? (Part of the Dads Are Not Second-class Parents Series)

Since the recent DVD release of Toy Story 3, many people are raising the question:

Where’s the dad in Toy Story 3? Or in Toy Story 1 and 2 for that matter?

Over the summer my family and I went to see the latest installment of the series. As always, Pixar did a great job with the film – except for one thing:

Dad was not represented in the film. Not even a mention.

It’s the same issue I had with the first two installments of the trilogy, and it taps into a much larger problem where dads are treated as second-class parents.

At first glance it may seem trivial, but what kind of message are we sending to the children who are watching this film? Not to mention the negative impact of countless TV shows, ads and commercials where dad is either not present, or portrayed as a negative stereotype (breadwinner, dope, moron, insert your most detested dad stereotype here, etc).

This type of miss is especially surprising to me from Pixar, who usually pays close attention to the details (which is part of what makes them great filmmakers).

When a boy (in this case Andy) is leaving home for college, why in the world wouldn’t dad be there to wish him well, help him load up the car and hug him goodbye? This perpetuates an archaic perception of dad as the non-present half of the parenting team. Even if Andy’s parents were divorced, any respectable dad would have at least called his son on the phone.

These days, this is not only an unfair representation, it’s also a horrible example for children to grow up with. And let’s not forget poor mom who’s expected to do everything! I for one find it offensive and insulting. What do you think?

And remember, you are not alone …

Additional Dads are Not Second-class Parents Articles:
– Part 1
Part 2: And Then There’s Dad
Part 3: A Divorced Dad’s Perspective
Part 4: Dads Need Help Too
A Question for Dads: Have You Been Treated Like a Second-class Parent?
(share your story)
– Part 5: Perceptions & Paradigms

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The Daddy Brain Workshop Series

The Daddy Brain Workshop in Madison, WI

Three 1-hour sessions focusing on issues that concern dads:

DAD’S EMOTIONAL LIFE
Wednesday, May 12th from 6-7 pm
Traditionally, dads have not been encouraged to talk about their emotions. But feelings like frustration, inadequacy, stress, sadness & fear need to be addressed, not suppressed.

DISCIPLINE
Thursday, May 20th from 6-7 pm
Positive and negative forms of discipline are discussed, as well as how we treat our kids on a daily basis (beyond discipline). Brain development is also touched upon.

GOALS FOR DADS, KIDS AND THE FAMILY
Thursday, June 3rd from 6-7 pm
How to define, set and attain goals – even in the face of obstacles like exhaustion, negative emotions, lack of time and stress.

All workshops are @ The Madison Public Library, Sequoya Branch. 4340 Tokay Blvd, Room A. To reserve your seat, or for more info, call Joey @ 608-216-6760, or e-mail daddybrain@live.com.

Have a group that would benefit from these workshops? I offer 1-day sessions and can travel to your town – wherever that might be. Feel free to e-mail or call me to discuss.

And remember, you are not alone …

Life is like a puzzle…with a lot of pieces

A couple of weeks ago I bought a 1,000 piece puzzle for the family to put together. When I looked at all the pieces, scattered on one of our play tables, I realized it was a lot like life. Let me explain…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s no one clear answer for anyone. No matter what you’re struggling with or working on, there’s not one sentence, exercise, vitamin, book or coffee blend that will make everything right. There is no instant answer. Instead, each day is like a piece of a huge puzzle.

If we focus on placing one piece in the correct place, each day builds on the previous one — just like a puzzle. If we try to put a 1,000 piece puzzle together in one day what happens? We fall short, get frustrated and perceive our inability to accomplish the goal as failure. The thing is, unless you’re a puzzle genius, there’s no way you can succeed if you try to do the whole thing in one day. Simply put, your goal is too large.

When I started looking at life this way, it greatly simplified things. Each day, I could either place ONE piece correctly, or fail to place it correctly. Since it’s a 1,000 piece puzzle, some things would clarify after only a couple of weeks — while others would take years to take shape. This simple analogy is a great starting point to look at goals. (Click here for more details on this subject, or search keyword “Goals” in the search box on the right).

What am I really talking about here? Perception.

We either see a situation as hopeful or hopeless. If we believe we can accomplish something, we will. Eventually we will find a way. If we don’t believe, then we won’t. Either way, we’ll be right.

How you perceive your life defines whether you become a shining star, or a burnt out porch light.

I realized that if I shift my perception a few things immediately change:
– I use less energy being positive than I do being negative
– If I’m perceiving a situation as positive, then I’m more likely to think, speak and act positive. This draws positive energy to me like a magnet (just as being negative draws negativity to a person)
– It makes things better for the people around me. My positive attitude helps improve their lives. It puts them in a better mood, and I’m more likely to be helpful instead of a hinderance

Have you taken a look at how you perceive things lately? Here’s a link to an article called The 7-day Mental Diet. It can help you eradicate negative thinking, so you can create a better reality for yourself and your family.

And remember, you are not alone…

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Loss and the Erosion of a Human Being

Feelings of loss permeate my existence. They often lie just below the surface of my conciousness, occasionally jumping out like flying fish that pop out of the ocean. Problem is, the feeling does not disappear back into my subconscious. And there are more fish than ever swimming around and popping up inside my head.

Loss seems connected to every facet of my life right now. Each one seems to have eroded a little piece of me. And although I’m working on rebuilding myself (the topic of a future blog post), I’m missing pieces. I’m incomplete, which makes rebuilding all that much harder.

What kind of loss has worn on you? Here’s a brief list of what I’m struggling with on a daily basis:

Loss of energy; loss of time with my boys; loss of our two daughters; Grandma Frances; Grandpa Rick; our families in New York (we’re currently living in Wisconsin); loss of my youth; financial stability; loss of intimacy; loss of the relationship my wife and I had before we had kids (dates, holding hands, long talks about something other than survival, romance). Until recently, I had lost my dream of making the world a better place.

Something I often wonder about is the loss of innocence. I still remember when I lost mine as a child. It happened on four separate occasions – all of which involved my father. Am I contributing to the loss of innocence of my boys?

I feel so burnt out. Every week, a little more so, making the week before somehow seem more bearable. I feel hopeless that I will never accomplish some of my big life goals.

But then I realize: these are only feelings, and they’re based in fear. Fear of more loss, which equates (at least to a degree) fear of failure. These fears are a poor representation of my reality. Whether these negative perceptions become my reality is up to me, because FEAR is really False Evidence Appearing Real. This is an acronym I’ve learned, and it’s true.

But knowing this doesn’t make the fear magically go away. I am afraid of loss, and I’m connecting all of the losses in my life to my current situation, fearing more loss.

I’m having trouble getting things done. Goals that, for the most part, should be easier to accomplish. What makes it worse is that these goals, once accomplished, will put me and my family in a better place.

My wife says I’m being hard on myself. She’s right. But you know what? It’s up to me to do these things. There’s nobody else who’s going to do it for me. My family is depending on me and I feel like I’m failing.

I’m struggling. Why is it so hard to admit that?

Beyond all of the emotion, all the exhaustion and the pain, I realize the biggest loss would occur if I gave up. I refuse to give up, and so should you. As long as we’re breathing we can change our lives, we can help others do the same.

So after this fairly depressing article I have something to ask of each and every one of you:

Please don’t give up.

And remember, you are not alone…

Do You Have Spirituality in Your Life?

It’s been almost two years since Daddy Brain posted its first article.

Way back when, one of my goals was to write blog posts about spirituality. But the only one that resembles a spiritual post has the word schmuck in the title, so I’m guessing there’s more to explore.

Many of the issues I’ve written about – including discipline, yelling, hitting, manifesting reality, and giving kids a voice of their own, have a spiritual component. These articles touch on treating our children, ourselves and others better and living life with integrity. And as difficult as these things may sometimes be to do, they’re even more difficult if we don’t have a spiritual connection.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and sell you on any type of religion or spiritual practice. But I do want to ask:

Do you have spirit in your life?

Notice I didn’t say religion, because religion does not automatically include a living, breathing spirituality. Do you feel a connection to Universe, God, Wakan Tanka (Native American), Buddha or some other form of spiritual practice? Have you ever?

These questions are crucial for two reasons:
(1) Being tapped into spirituality reminds us that there’s something (or someone) bigger than us to help us through our lives. In the mayhem of each day, it’s easy to forget that we’re constantly supported. It’s easy for our sprit to get buried. But spirituality helps center and ground us. And if we acknowledge and trust this support – life flows easier and goals are attained more readily.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have to do our part. A great example is the joke about the drowning man. Have you heard it?

There was an old man sitting on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into his house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came by and the people on board said, “We have to evacuate, you can’t stay here!” The old man replied, “No, God will save me.” So the boat left.

A little while later, the water was up to the second floor when another rescue boat came. Again, the old man was told to evacuate and hop on board. The old man again replied, “God will save me.” So the boat left.

An hour later the water was up to the roof and a helicopter flew over the old man’s house, dropping him a ladder. The pilot yelled down, “grab on and climb up! I’ll get you out of here safely!” Again the old man refused to leave stating that, “God will save me.” The helicopter flew away to save others.

Soon after, the man drowns and goes to heaven. When he sees God he asks him, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God replied, “You dummy! I tried! I sent you two boats and helicopter — what more do you want?”

I’m sure you’ll agree the point is obvious — we simply must take action.

(2) If we do not live with spirit on a daily basis, who will teach our children to? I’ve known people who are not comfortable with formalized religion, so they forgo cultivating a true spiritual life. This was my problem for a very long time.

Living with spirit does not necessarily mean praying on one’s knees every day, going to church, or sitting in the lotus position (if you can get into it) and chanting. But these are options that work for people.

On a practical level, “living with spirit” is being kind to others, helping others, doing what’s right (not what’s convenient), living with integrity and being honest. It’s being mindful and as centered as possible (deep breaths are helpful with this).

Our children are depending on us to teach them these qualities.

And remember, you are not alone…

People are Dying to be Heard: an Interview with Ben Merens

Ben Merens is a professional speaker and radio host.

His radio show, At Issue with Ben Merens, is very popular because it examines a variety of topics that have relevance to our every-day lives. As a speaker, Ben’s message is gaining more and more attention because of its importance: people are dying to be heard.

Ben was kind enough to answer some questions about this topic, which should be of interest to just about anyone. No matter how good a listener you are, there’s always room for improvement. We also have a right to be heard ourselves…

Daddy Brain: Can you overview what you speak about at your seminars?

Ben Merens: I talk about the importance of listening to others because People Are Dying To Be Heard. I discuss the three levels of listening basic to all our lives: listening to ourselves; listening to those we know; and listening to strangers. I also stress the importance of living and listening in the moment. I try to help people block out the distractions in their lives that impede their ability practice “Uni-Tasking” or focused listening.

DB: Where did this topic originate?

BEN: The topic comes from my 25 years in the journalism profession. I’ve learned that people all want to tell their stories. I’ve also learned that we tend to take less time to listen to others today because we all feel so busy and hurried. I find that it is healthy to just sit still and listen to another. The benefits of listening are both for the speaker and the listener.

DB: Do you feel the need to be heard? If so, is your need being fulfilled?

BEN: Yes, I do feel the need to be heard. I think we all have this need to some extent. I feed the need daily on the radio but more so when I am giving a speech about the Art of Listening. When I am speaking from my heart to a group of people from 25 to 250, my soul is fed and I am at peace.

DB: Do you have any suggestions on how a parent can balance listening to their kids with accomplishing a task that needs our full attention – like cooking dinner? We want our kids to be heard, but at that moment it might be difficult to really pay attention. What do we tell them?

BEN: If you’re comfortable cooking and talking…go right ahead. But when the conversation needs your full attention, use the opportunity to build trust and teach your child. Teach him/her patience by telling them that you need some time to finish cooking (or whatever else it is you need to do) BUT that you’ll give them your complete attention at … and state a time here. And, then stick to it. This is where the trust comes in. As long as you stick to your promise, over time your child will be willing to wait because he/she will know that you will be available. I don’t think a parent needs to be available for their child whenever he/she calls…but we need to find a happy medium between a child’s call for attention and a parent’s ability to provide it.

DB: How do we teach our kids to respect when mommy and daddy want to talk? Other than telling them, “mommy and daddy are talking, you’ll have to wait your turn,” how else can we instill the art of respecting mom and dad’s need for communication? I would think leading by example would be a good start.

BEN: I think the same rules apply here when Mom and Dad need to talk in private. A child needs to know that sometimes Mom and Dad need time alone. And sometimes, the child will have that same opportunity with one parent. Kids get it. They will learn to be patient if they sense there is justice and fairness in the request.

DB: I remember being told to “be quiet,” often as a kid. I was a talker, still am. My need to be heard has not left me, but I sometimes feel that what I have to say might not really be important or that people just don’t want to be bothered listening to me. How would attending your seminar, or listening to your audio book help me?

BEN: I teach others how to balance their need to be heard along with the willingness to listen to others. I help people learn how to prioritize what they want to say…so they can be heard about what really matters and disciplined enough to let the less important messages be left unsaid.

DB: How do we let them know they have a right to be heard?

BEN: We let them know they have a right to be heard by listening to them. And, we also let them know that they have an obligation to listen. An easy way to teach this to kids is to point out that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to listen twice as much as we talk. It is a good rule of thumb for adults too.

DB: Dads still struggle to be heard. For too long, we’ve been trapped in a paradigm where we’re not supposed to have feelings, doubts or worries. Many of my readers are daddy bloggers who have found a voice of their own, or are struggling to find their voice. What advice do you have for dads that may not know where to look for their voice, let alone express it?

BEN: I would tell dads to start by listening to themselves. I advise people to sit still in a quiet place and think about what is important to them. If you don’t know what is important to you, it is unrealistic to expect others to hear you. But, once you have a message that you want to express, allow your passion for that message to get the attention of others. People can hear when you have something important to say and when you are just filling space. We all want to be heard, so we all have to recognize that we can’t always be the one talking. And, when we limit ourselves to voicing the truly important messages, people tend to pay close attention to us.

DB: How do we teach our community, family and friends that dads need to be heard too?

BEN: I don’t think it is a matter of segmenting out the needs of dads to be heard. I think we need to recognize that all of us need to be heard. And, just because someone tends to be quiet or not generally forthcoming in conversation, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have something important to say. Dads have feelings too. And they deserve to share them just like everybody else.

– – – –

Thank you Ben, for taking the time to answer my questions.

To learn more, feel free to visit Ben’s site at BenMerens.com. If you’re interested, his seminar is available on audio. You can also click here for more about his WPR radio show. If you have Internet service, you can listen in for free from anywhere in the world by clicking here and adding Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network to your iTunes, Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. It takes about 30 seconds to download the station. Then, just double click the downloaded icon to automatically add to your playlist.

And remember, you are not alone…

Little Acts of Love, by Paul Peterson

I came across a wonderful article at one of my favorite blogs, paulpetersonlive.com. I was so moved by Paul’s message, I felt it was important to share with you:

Last night our family took a friend of ours to Cracker Barrel for his 30th birthday. Our friend is from Honduras and speaks broken English (though he’s getting better all the time). My Spanish is limited to what I’ve picked up by watching Dora the Explorer with “The Ladies”. We have a good time together. I probably amuse him with my lame attempts to speak Spanish. I’m such a gringo.

While we were ordering, I slipped our waitress a slip of paper that said, “My friend had a birthday. Let’s go crazy!” They did! After dinner they brought him some peach cobbler and sang a rousing and VERY loud “Happy Birthday!”

I watched my friend. His eyes were wide with multiple emotions ranging from fear to amazement. When they were done and left he looked down at his cobbler for a long time. I saw him biting his lip. I was biting mine too. So was Sherri.

We sat with tears in our eyes. Silent. Hesitant to talk for fear we start bawling.

After a few minutes my friend looked at me and said, “No one has ever sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me.” He went on to say that this year even some of his closest family has not called and wished him a “Happy Birthday.” He said, “I will remember this day for 50 or 60 years.”

I have thought much about this experience. What is it about a little thing (an evening, a dinner, a song) that can make adults cry and create a memory that will never be forgotten?

Here’s what I’m thinking, we know we are to love one another. Often we look for the BIG ways to show our love, and because we can’t find or afford the BIG ways we put our love on hold. We live with the knowledge that we should… but we don’t. Consequently we live unfulfilled Christian lives.

MAYBE we should stop waiting for the BIG and start doing the little, and in doing so we may just find that LITTLE is big.

What LITTLE thing can you do for someone today to show them you love them?

Remember this, what may seem “little” to you may be HUGE to someone else! Go for it!

And remember, you are not alone…