Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Leadership: 9 Ways to Successfully Navigate Changes, Tragedy and Triumph – Implementing the Never Give Up Perspective

Friday, March 23rd, 2018
My entry into the world of professional speaking came about when I wrote my first book Kidjacked: A Father’s Story. It told the true events that rocked my world to its foundation. You see, when my kids Jonathan and Alexandra were 4 and 2 years old they were kidnapped and taken to the Middle East by the person I trusted most- their mother, my wife Liza! Leadership was not foremost on my mind, But as it turns out, it needed to be.

Yeah, I was devastated, lost and emotionally trashed. And yet, I accomplished what few people said that could ever be done. I located them, came up with a less than fool proof plan and eventually was successful in getting them home to America! And, I had the honor and pleasure of raising them…except for a few moments in the teenage years!

Today, my kids are grown, I’ve remarried and with the extraordinary help of my fantastic wife Meg, we raised two wonderful adults.

Today’s world is filled with horrific stories.
It’s difficult to pick up a paper, read an article online or talk to a coworker without discussing a school shooting, another woman being harassed or worse at work or cyber or personal bullying.

Okay, the bury our head in the sand approach is not working. And, we complain, almost in unison that this and that must end. Today! Yet, it all continues, we feel helpless and there often appears to be no end in sight. It requires individual leadership.

Feeling like crap, are you? Well, happily there IS something you and I can do. I learned it many years ago and I call it The Never Give Up Perspective.

Here’s how it works.
Are you old enough to remember when seat belts were often not worn in cars? No laws required it. How about drinking and driving? Smoking on airplanes? Same sex marriage? Legalized Marijuana? Laws, laws and more laws! So, how does change professionally and personally take root and grow into a movement and more? Here’s how change works and keeps going:

  1. Communication
  2. Sharing information
  3. Getting mad
  4. Losing someone/something you loved
  5. Doing something. Speaking up/speaking out
  6. Be brave
  7. Realizing that whatever you’re aiming for takes time
  8. Building a base of support
  9. Never ever under any circumstances giving up!

You have something(s) you’re passionate about at work. Something that MUST change.

We all do. Be that voice. Be brave. Know that others feel the same way and are looking for a leader to support.
You’ve seen the ugly in life. You’ve seen the inappropriate in the workplace. The leader is you. The first move is yours.

Moms got MAD and driving while drunk laws changed.

People did not want others smoking on the plane and in restaurants/bars. Laws were enacted.

People wanted people to marry whomever they choose. Laws were changed.

Seatbelts-new laws

Inappropriate behavior in the workplace- laws, regulations and PEOPLE being brave and speaking up!

Kids kidnapped– Moved forward, fell down many times and never gave up. So, did all of the women and men who made the changes above.

Safer gun laws that protect our children and citizens… Perhaps closer then we think!

As humans we’re often quick to complain, quick to judge and slow to react.
History shows us that it is often the act of 1 person that begins to move a cause or action at work or in society forward. A brave woman in Selma. A brave man in San Francisco, a group of mothers and more!

Please, don’t wait for that women to come forward. Don’t watch to see which man will speak up. Instead, be that person that so many are waiting for. It always begins with a single voice. Perhaps yours.

#METOO, gun violence, workplace harassment, bullying, cyber shaming. How do you deal with these things? Do you speak out against this and more?
Are you willing to be THAT voice of change professionally and personally? We’re counting on you! We counting on your leadership, communications and guidance.

Interested in having me speak at an upcoming event? Let’s chat.

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Parenting – Connecting, Talking, Learning & Improving

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Raising my children was a 24/7 job. As a volunteer facilitator at The Parenting Network (a National Fatherhood Initiative program in Milwaukee), I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree; every group teaches me something and after ten weeks we all feel better and even wiser. The parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.

Before each leaves, I ask them for 1-3 takeaways to make sure that they are not just saying we helped. I know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating and their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! Some comments are: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how so and so was to me growing up.”  “I never knew why I acted like that. Why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”

 I am confident that many (hey- ya can’t reach everyone) are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing is wonderful. Breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they felt if this occurred to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.

 I’m not under the assumption that these fathers are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. They open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!

 I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. Speaking professionally allows me to connect with people from all walks of life. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I could have definitely used it and I suspect most of us could. Some participants come back to observe, add content and opinions, plus continue to grow. Kids deserve nothing but the best and it is a parent’s responsibility to try to provide that every day.  It’s our most important job!

11 Reasons to Think About Our Kids

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
  • They’re getting smarter and faster and stronger than ever before. Impressive!
  • Their communication skills are changing from directly verbal to wireless
  • When is the last time you saw a ten year old eat? Where does it all go?
  • Their competitive eye is showing up in 4 year olds. 5 year olds beware!
  • Too many unhealthy foods to eat. Parents must balance their diet
  • Not enough exercise. I get it, but our children’s health may suffer in their 20’s and 30’s.
  • Divorce.  Parents must get along. If not, our children suffer which hurts us all.
  • Too many activities. Perhaps it’s time to let them be kids and forego yet another sport or organization
  • Social interaction with adults. It’s our job as parents to teach respect for all
  • Okay, their future IS bright but it still ain’t easy growing up.
  • One day, they’ll be taking care of us!

Book It

Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Most of us don’t think about flying away to somewhere warm during the summer months. We’re busy enjoying the outside, the flowers and grilling with our family. I try to get away for a week during the winter months. The icicles that form on my soul need a chance to warm up and melt in the sunshine. Motivation for families to book airfare, car and hotel is made easier by discounted prices that can reach 50%!
That’s the difference of a family of four taking a vacation or “roughing it” and staying home in the cold. Determined to get away in January, I looked up prices, booked a flight and know that six months from now, I’ll be happy I did. Oh yeah, I got a good price on a non-stop flight and an awesome deal on a car! If that doesn’t inspire you, just think about last winter for a minute. Can you picture it? Okay, now book it!

Violin Me!

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

My neighbor Sophie is 19 and plays the violin like an angel. A music major in college, she is home for the summer. I’ve known her since she began playing at age four.

Yesterday she had a lesson with a friend and a lady from the symphony. Windows wide open I received yet another in the magnificent series of Sophie’s “free” concerts.

A couple in their late 20’s was walking by, coffees in hand and pushing a stroller with two small boys. One was crying as they stopped in front of my house to calm him down. No luck!

As I watched the meltdown continue, I asked them to come and sit by me and listen to the music.

“It’s a free concert, you’ll love it.”

Three minutes later Josh stopped crying, everyone was smiling and no one was speaking. The power of music once again washed over ALL of us as we sat looking off in different directions.

When they left, the mom (Kate) turned, smiled and said softly “Thank you so much.”

Kids need music. Adults do too. It cuts through to our very core, releasing dopamine to the pleasure senses of our brain, making us feel great.

Next time you or one or more of your children are having “one of those moments” do what I do-sit outside and listen to Sophie play. If you don’t have a Sophie nearby, then put in those ear buds and get lost in some tunes as you watch the world unfold into a gentler place.

Put Down that Phone – Please!

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When I headed off to college my mom had two ways of connecting with me. 1) She could call me in my dorm room, and if the planets were properly aligned, she’d get me on the phone. 2) A letter. How did we survive?
Today’s parents have a plethora of electronic ways to “stay connected” with their kids at any given moment of any given day. Thing is, it takes persistence and practice to successfully back off.
Moms and dads can be seen pushing strollers with one hand and chatting on their cell with the other. I wonder. Is that phone call really that important? Probably not. What about the simple act of bonding with our children? Talking, pointing out flowers and birds, the cool cloud formations and the “other” parents pushing their kids in strollers while talking on their cell phones.
Sure there’s no laws preventing us from hanging with our little ones with a phone in our ear and there shouldn’t be, yet somehow I raised two well-adjusted kids and made a point of not letting life’s electronic interruptions get in our way. How did we survive? Okay, you got me. Cell phones weren’t around much when my kids were young, only car phones and the occasional bulky, portable NASA tested, shoulder harnessed talking device that gave one the feeling of real coolness.
Today, it’s easy to tweet, twitter, email, text and talk to one another 24/7. The real challenge for us is to stay connected the old fashioned way-talking face to face. Sound yucky? Feeling a bit cheated? Human communications have taken huge leaps in the past 20 years. It’s difficult but not impossible to step back, put the phone down and interact with our loved ones the old fashioned way-talking. They deserve our undivided attention.
Enough for now. My dog, Jazz is staring at me looking for attention and some serious scratching behind his ears. Gotta go!

Taking Care of Our Children

Monday, December 24th, 2012

We were stunned once again as a country with the recent shootings in Connecticut. Safe at school or in a movie theater have become things of the past. Men, women and our most precious children are being gunned down by fellow countrymen. It’s sickening, but when you stop and think about it, we humans have been good at killing one another since then beginning of mankind.

Today’s assault rifles make slaughtering a dozen or more people nothing more than a tragic midway game at a carnival. It’s easy and sadly very effective. I support a person right to own a gun. I understand that some people want one or more. I understand that guns kill and I understand why I don’t feel the need to own one. I realize that we can’t place guards in every public building to protect us.

It took the latest massacre for me to say “enough.” Guns will be around, but semi-automatic killing machines should be banned. Forget your rights for a moment and remember the lonely and quiet homes whose rooms are filled with only memories of another senseless death.

Sure, we’ll move forward with our lives after the holidays, but our politicians will be reminded by mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, many of whom own guns, that we as a nation must do what’s right. We must change laws to restrict the most lethal of firearms.

Hey Mom and Dad – Can you spare a dime? (or more!)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Saving for college is tough. Meg and I promised our two kids Jonathan and Alexandra, aka the money pits, that we’d pay for a four year college education, books and housing included. The economy continues to inch along, the four years turns into four and a half years and we find that we’re a bit short on funds. Like most of the money they need! What to do? Property taxes are due at the end of the year and we don’t escrow.

The first thing I did was explain to our two young adults the reality of our situation. Still teaching them, I hoped they’d further understand how life is outside the semi-protective walls of higher education.

Many of us refer to this as “the real world.”

Oh, they get it, but they don’t like it. They both have jobs, so I can’t guilt them into getting off of their respective asses and finding employment.

We explain to them that they economy is struggling and a college education is not paid for like it is in other countries. We gently remind them of the importance of a four year degree and how it opens doors of opportunity that might otherwise remain closed.

They understand, but can’t fully appreciate what waits for them outside their hallowed halls. Or do they?

Maybe mom and dad are naive, because both kids are talking about perusing their doctorate which I think might be paid for by the university. In the meantime, Meg and I came up with some creative ways to get the money they’ll need to complete their last semester’s requirements. I swear this did not include the harvesting of anyone’s organs. This includes our dog.