Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Dad Taught Me These Things....

I wrote this for Father's Day this year, but wanted to revisit it due to a recent article I read about Mothers keeping the children from their Fathers. That was not my experience. Though my parents were divorced my mother never attempted to keep us from our father. The insight she shared with me as a teenager was that she wanted us to develop our own idea of who he is without her, and it did happen. Over the years I had a myriad of ideas about who he was, but none colored by her feelings.

For those Mothers who are keeping their children from Fathers who are not a danger to the children or yourself, chronic felons, drug users, or just nutty; know that your children do not belong to you. Children are not pawns in your game, a means to get back at someone, or your access to money. Your relationship with and to their Father should be exclusively betweent the two of you. With that said, I got the chance to get my Dad's view of more than 30 years without his wife and children. And these are some of the things my Dad taught me. 

Two years removed from the death of my father, he remains with me in ways of which I am conscious and unconscious. He is definitely with me when I meet new people, the usual question that comes up is, "How tall are you?" At six feet tall, I rarely can escape that question at some point, especially because I often choose to wear heals. My father was 6'6" and carried it with pride, a gentle giant. In his life and the things he said or did not say, I have been taught about Life, love, spirituality, family, friends, and even cooking! As I reflect on this Father's Day these are a few of the things I have been taught:

1) You're going to make mistakes, it's whether you let them define you that makes a difference. Dad lived his life the way he knew how. And he admittedly made mistakes. Some, he allowed to stop him from having what he truly wanted, his family together, the wife, the kids, and his art. For that, he shared, he spent time ashamed of his choices. Being ashamed of his choices had come to define a large part of his life. I learned that I make the choices I make and they will either work out or not, but learning from them and moving on provides a life lesson.

2) Love is a gift, always a gift. You have the choice to accept or not "I" had a love/hate relationship wth my father. Notice I said "I". My parents divorced when I was 6, however, he left 4 years prior. And because of that I thought he did not love me, left me, and was out having fun without his family. No matter what he did it never looked like love, not clearly. To me, it was out of obligation, if anything. As an adult, I began to let the guards down and let in tha the might love me.
We had a few poinient conversations, but I remember one in particular. It was during a time we were back and forth in our relationship. A sentence of background: I am the youngest of four children, 3 girls and a boy. So, he shared with me that when my siblings were born he did not get to hold them, first. But when I was born, the doctor got ready to hand me to my mother and he said, "No, no! She got to hold the rest of them first give her to me". He said he was so overjoyed to see me and hold me he could not speak. In that moment, I was aware of another side of him that I did not know. He had always loved me, his love is a gift, that I had just not accepted. Our relationship flourished and at the end of his life we were closer than ever, because I accepted who he had always wanted to be for me and the love he was giving.

3) Stay in the inquiry of Life. More spiritual than religious, my Dad was always questioning life, God, what is, what is not, looking into alternative medicines, and open to conversations that would further his knowledge. I admire him for being a man who stood for his life being created by him, not in the confines of what others thought. We talked about God, religion, healing, and the power of the mind. He shared with me that he always wanted his children to be seekers, not sitters. Not going to church for the sake of it, but looking into what they are being taught, questioning, and going deeper than the average person. It is a pleasure to know that his dream is alive in me. I stay in the inquiry of life and the spirit daily. It may not look like others think it "should", yet it is perfect for me. Thank goodness for a father who encouraged individuality.

Last, but not least 4) Live. It sounds simple. Just live. I know that he had his own struggles, hurts, regrets, and dreams. Most of all, what I learned from him is to just live. Live each day, each moment, and be present with it. At the age of 70, my father was in the hospital with bladder cancer, we laughed, laughed, laughed. He was grumpy, cussing at the nurses when they did not answer his questions right or had him sitting around for "no reason", or making fun of the fact that hospital beds do not accommodate 6'6" frames, and we still laughed. He was a gentle giant, and they understood that he meant no harm. No matter what was going on, we seemed to find a moment to laugh. That is life for me. I love to laugh. Both of my parents loved to laugh. Dad had a husky, loud, laugh that was truly from the heart. He lived life.

Yes, there are more things I learned from John Gaskins and they will be revealed at different times, when I need them most. Most of all, I learned that Fathers are just men, not super men. Men that live life, make choices, make mistakes, laugh, love, hurt, cry, and want the best for themselves and their family - just like women. I honor my Dad for just being a man, nothing more, nothing less, just a man who lived his life the best way he knew. And I will forever love him in all his humanity.

Get A Grip! Get Movin'.

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” ~Beverly Sills

Discipline and Self-Control
Excerpt from, Long Island Hypnotherapy

“Many people have the mistaken idea that if you work out a lot, or practice your craft for eight hours per day, you have discipline and self-control. Not necessarily. Discipline is the ability to continue to do something that you would rather not do! It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch TV for hours at a time if you like to do that. But try to get someone with lots of energy and no interest in TV to sit there for hours staring at the screen. Now that would take discipline and lots of self-control.

Discipline is what enables people to be successful in many areas of life. It is easy to achieve success in those areas that we enjoy and that come to us naturally. Attaining a high degree of success in areas that we don't really like, but must participate in requires discipline. For many people going to work every day requires discipline. If you ask one hundred people if they like to go to work most of them would say they would rather not. It is rare to find people who would actually choose to go to work if they had the choice of doing other things and still receive a pay check!”

You, a Magnet for Success?

The Science of Success Achievement
As a consultant and coach, I take personality seriously. The way in which you are perceived by others can determine whether you get a second look, a return call, an invitation to that important meeting with extraordinary prospective clientele, and even determines how your children's teacher and prinipal interact with you. Believe it or not your personality is a key to your success. After finding the Personal Magnetism Test, created by Rick Gettle, I used it, and incorporated elements of it into my business with clients. If you have never assessed the way others look at you, take the time to consider that it makes a difference. The follwoing is the Personal Magnetism Test, there are no wrong answers, just opportunities to grow.


Personality is the mental, spiritual, and physical traits - good or bad - which distinguish you from all others. To realize prosperity and success you need to build a powerful magnetic personality that attracts people to you. Here's a list of traits that will help you achieve a pleasing, attractive, engaging, and winning personality.

Please rate yourself, not on how you feel about yourself, but on how you think others would rate you. Rate Yourself --- Poor - Fair - Good - Excellent

A Positive Mental Attitude---------------------------------------------------
Keep your mind filled throughout the day with positive and happy thoughts? It’s not much fun being around negative people. Treat everyone you meet as if they were the most important person in the world.

Positive Self-Projection-------------------------------------------------------
Learn how to send out and project an aura into the atmosphere that surrounds you, that will create a good mood and feeling for those near you.

The Capacity To Understand People---------------------------------------
To be a leader and well respected by the people you work with - you must learn to be an expert when it comes to understanding and inspiring people.

The best-dressed and groomed person usually increases their energy and attracts the most favorable attention.

Control Of Your Emotions----------------------------------------------------
Self discipline is necessary if you're to enjoy the benefits of a pleasing personality. Some of the negative feelings, which must be brought under control, are: Fear, hatred, anger, envy, greed, jealousy, revenge, irritability, and superstition. On the positive side of these negative emotions are the positives of: Love, kindness, faith, hope, desire, loyalty, sympathy, and optimism.

Use Of Creativity---------------------------------------------------------------
Everyone is born with a brain and an imagination. Some use theirs to develop their fullest capacity to create a great life for themselves - while others use theirs very seldom and end up living a life of mediocrity and lack.

Hope And Ambition------------------------------------------------------------
A person without ambition may be harmless to others, but will never be popular. No one cares much about a person who shows by their actions (or lack of action) that they have abandoned hope of getting ahead in this world. Having dreams, goals, and plans on how to achieve them – create positive energy around you.

To get what you want from life you must have the powers of persuasion to get others to want to help you and cooperate with you.

The person who lacks the necessary self-discipline to manage his or her personal habits is never attractive to others. This is especially true of eating, drinking and sexual relationships. Excesses in relation to any of these destroy personal magnetism.

Concern For Others-----------------------------------------------------------
A person who is concerned about the welfare, happiness, and safety of others is a well-loved person.

This is a fast moving, high speed world. The tempo of human thoughts and actions is so rapid that people often get in one another's way. Patience is required if you wish to avoid friction in human relationships.

If it’s meant to be – it’s up to me. Making things happen.

Humility Of The Heart---------------------------------------------------------
Be humble. Keep your empathy and your ego in balance.

Aspiration For Excellence----------------------------------------------------
Always doing your very best – taking personal initiative and going the extra mile.

A Friendly And Pleasing Tone Of Voice------------------------------------
Keep your tone of voice calm, friendly, soothing, caring, cheerful, easygoing and kind-hearted.

Discipline is what corrects, molds, and perfects.

Ability To Work In Harmony With Others----------------------------------
Teamwork and cooperation.

A Fondness For People-------------------------------------------------------
It is inevitable that people who dislike others will be disliked; people sense disapproval, even when you're silent! It is greatly beneficial to monitor your thoughts and emotions as well as your words. Treat everyone you meet, every day, as if they were the most important person in the world. They will give you their love, their respect and their business.

Problem Solving Skills--------------------------------------------------------

The Habit Of Smiling----------------------------------------------------------
It requires 12 muscles to smile - 103 muscles to frown. When we smile at another person, it puts them at ease and raises their self-esteem. It also releases endorphins in your brain that gives you a feeling of well-being and contentment. Your smile will change the mental attitude of those with whom you come into contact.

Correction and regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.

Positive Facial Expressions--------------------------------------------------
There are thousands of ways a person speaks without ever opening their mouth. It’s called body language. Are your facial expressions saying things that will attract others to you, or turn them off?

Speaking Ability Before Others---------------------------------------------
Can you inspire and rouse an audience to action?

Always go out of your way to help others and be kind to them.

Show Alertness Of Interest-------------------------------------------------
The greatest compliment one can pay another person is that of concentrating their attention wholly on the person that is talking to them. Be a great listener.

Personal Magnetism---------------------------------------------------------
Do you have the ability to arouse and add vitality in people? People love to be around others that make them feel alive and important.

Always be genuine and honest and free from deceit and phoniness.

A Good Sense Of Humor-----------------------------------------------------
A well developed sense of humor helps you stay flexible and adjust to life's varying circumstances. It keeps you from taking yourself and life too seriously.

Do you have the ability to adapt yourself to quickly changing circumstances without losing your composure?

Keep an open mind at all times, this applies to people and circumstances.

Frankness In Manner And Speech-----------------------------------------
Always be straightforward and sincere. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Get your point across in the shortest time with well-chosen words.

Skill and grace in dealing with others. People show their lack of tact in many ways. The most common are: A gruff and irritable tone of voice indicating that you are in a negative mental mood or displeased. Volunteering opinions which have not been requested, and for which no reason exists, especially opinions on subjects with which one is not familiar. Interrupting the speech of others, indicating one of the more frequent expressions of discourtesy, and lack of culture. Expressing your dislike too freely. Overworking the personal pronoun, "I". Asking favors you haven't earned the right to request. Asking impertinent questions generally for impressing others with the questioner’s importance, or his or her contempt of the one they are addressing. Injecting intimately personal subjects into conversations where such actions have not been invited, and may be embarrassing to others. Going where one has not been invited, the habit of trying to minimize another person’s achievements, speaking disparagingly of people in the presence of their friends, and common boastfulness speak to a persons tactfulness.

A Keen Sense of Justice-----------------------------------------------------
Doing the right thing in dealing with people. Live by the golden rule.

Appropriate Choice Of Words-----------------------------------------------
The English language is filled with words which carry every conceivable shade of meaning. There is no excuse for the common habit of using words that offend others. And, of course, the use of profanity at any time, or under any circumstances, is inexcusable and unnecessary.

Effective Speech---------------------------------------------------------------
People have risen to great heights of personal achievement because of their ability to sell themselves and their ideas through dramatization of speech. The most important factor in effective speech is a thorough knowledge of the subject on which you are speaking. All the rules of effective speaking can be stated in one sentence. Know what you want to say, say it with all the emotional feeling at your command, and then sit down.

Popular people are versatile. They have at least a surface knowledge of many subjects. They are interested in other people and in other people’s ideas.

Control Of Temper-------------------------------------------------------------
The person who lets his or her temper fly off in all directions is sure to receive negative feedback. The most common injury an uncontrolled temper inflicts is that which results from an uncontrolled tongue.

Effective Showmanship--------------------------------------------------------
Have a sense or knack for dramatically effective presentation. Pizzazz.

Clean Sportsmanship---------------------------------------------------------
Show graciousness in winning and in losing, and, in getting or not getting what you want.

The Ability To Shake Hands Properly--------------------------------------
We all know how uncomfortable it is when someone squeezes your hand too hard. Also, a limp handshake leaves a poor impression. The person who shakes hands properly coordinates his or her handshake with their words of greeting, generally emphasizing each word with a firm grip of the hand. They do not release the other person's hand until they finish their greeting.

Making Decisions Promptly--------------------------------------------------
Successful men and women reach decisions quickly and act on them promptly.

Faith In Infinite Intelligence-------------------------------------------------
Stay in harmony with the Supreme Being that created this universe, whoever you think your creator is.

Enthusiasm is to go forward every morning with the thrill of being alive.

Now that you have looked at those areas, choose 5 in which to make improvements. What actions will you take to improve those areas? Once you have improved, move on to others. It is all about growth and development. Be a magnet in all areas, with your family, friends, and at work. It can't hurt!

Not Your Average Love Story Most little girls, as they are growing up, dream of the white picket fence, the husband, and having two children. That is not my story, it did cross my mind, but somehow I knew my family would never be the normal one. My Love Story, began when I saw a little boy at a foster home in October of 2000. When I tell people about meeting him, it sounds like a made for television drama. See when you adopt, the child is born in your heart. The winter began to set in on Cleveland, Ohio; I worked in the Department of Children and Family Services as a social worker. The first children I visited were two girls placed in a foster home. Prior to this case, I had none. In fact, I had a choice between 2-3 other cases and chose this particular one. Single, college graduate, no children, those were my basic stats at the time. As I sat on the couch of the foster parents’ home there was a tiny boy hiding behind the curtains playing peek-a-boo with me and laughing. Soon after his antics with the curtains he crawled up on the couch, sat next to me, and just looked at me. He moved closer, and then closer, eventually he was on my lap. In a moment of freedom I said, “I’m gonna take you home with me.” About a year following that day, his foster mother told me he was available for adoption. Due to making monthly visits to the home for the other children placed there, I had grown attached to hi, and always wanted to know how he was doing. When told me, my heart stopped and I got worried that I would never know how he was or what happened to him. So, I made the choice to adopt him. Single, college graduate, no children, those were my basic stats at the time. Little did I know that day would be a day to change two lives. Jamil, officially, became my son in March of 2003 at the age of 3 years old and our love story is still being written. Adoption, to me is no different than having a natural child in many ways. I question my fitness as a parent and whether I made the “right” decision. And there were times, and still are, when I thought he would be better off with someone else. He would have two parents, a bigger house, a better yard, a dog (like he begs me to get), and other siblings in the home (like he begs me to get). And were it not for the support of other family and friends, we would not have made it this far. He is what I live for now. He is the Love of my Life. When I think about him not being in my life, it is hard to fathom. I received a call from my sister in California, whom he stays with for part of the summer. At the time was nine years old, he was asking about his birth Mother, and I became worried. To let you know, he is has always known he was adopted; he has an album with the names of his birth parents, knows he has siblings and has bet all but one of them. It has never been a conversation that was off limits for him. With that said, she had questioned him on what he would change about his life and he said, “nothing”. He expressed that he loves me, he is happy to be adopted, and he would not change that at all. Neither would I. At every juncture, it has always been my intention to have him be well adjusted. Unlike birth children, Jamil has questions about life that speak to who he is in a different way. Why he is not with his birth family? What happened that his parents were not able to care for him? He has a list of questions of which I can not and would not attempt answer for him. However, as his Mom I can be there to support him in becoming what he wants to be, developing him for the future, and accepting himself. Isn’t that what being a parent is about anyway? Still single, still a college graduate, one child, those are my basic stats. He was not born from me physically, but he was born in my heart. And this is not your average love story. Are you considering becoming an adoptive parent? There are plenty of helpful resources available, listed below: Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption National Adoption Center National Council for Adoption AdoptUsKids Adoption Resources Child Welfare Information Gateway Courageous Choice Adopt America Network Children Awaiting Parents Comeunity Comeunity Resource Listing Children Awaiting Parents

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

Understanding “A Standard of Excellence” involves understanding the words “standard” and “excellence”. Words are often used with little thought given to their true meaning. We throw around the word “love” so much that it has lost its meaning. We “love” coffee, our pets, that jacket, those shoes, and even people we have barely known a minute. It stands to question whether we can have “A Standard of Excellence” without having a true understanding of what it is.

A standard can be defined multiple ways. At one point a standard was a banner carried during times of war, it served as a rallying point, or emblem to gather the troops. It can be defined as a personal flag, one of a royal family, or organization. “Something set up and established by authority as a rule for measure,” is another definition. All of these would be appropriate to use at different times and give an idea of what a standard could be. For our purposes just about all can be applied in different aspects.
More often than not we are given standards for things by an authority. A standard ruler is twelve inches measuring a foot, a standard work day is eight hours, standard pregnancy is said to last for nine months, and your standard date is dinner and a movie. These standards were set by an authority, we do not know who yet we follow them readily. There are even standards set for what people should eat each day created for us. Someone created the standard quantity, weight, extent, duration, value, or quality and we accepted it. We accepted it unconsciously giving no thought to our own ability to create something different for ourselves. Most of us live unconsciously off of and by the standards set by others. We can raise the banner, flag, standard of our own Life. Two last definitions to take note of deal with structure, support, and stability. Standards give us those three things; the question is “to what standard do you hold yourself?” If your standard is excellence then the next step is to find out what it means to be excellent.

Excel, the root word of excellent, comes from the Latin word excellere meaning “to rise, project”. Sounds like we have passed “standard” before getting to define excel or excellent. To excel is to surpass in accomplishments or achievement, to be distinguishable by superiority. Superiority that is not arrogant or egotistical. This superiority speaks for itself, there are no words necessary, it has integrity, is confident, well put together, and moves with purpose. Excelling is going beyond a stated or implied limit set by an authority or established by a custom or tradition, and even past achievements. To excel one must push further than what is asked, transcending what is thought, moving past the norm to reach another level, outdoing your own past, and creating competition. Competition where there is only one person in the game, You. Excelling is continual. It is perpetual. There is no place called Excel City. It is a verb. Breaking through the ceiling called standard, status quo, or good enough creates excellence. It is a mindset, a place where you can live perpetually through excelling, being in motion, moving past yesterday; it takes motion to create excellence.

You are the authority which creates how you will measure the quantity and quality of the time given to tasks, people, and things. You say what a priority is, has value, and the quantity of money, time, and effort given to things in your Life. Only you can exceed standards set by authorities and yourself. Only you can push yourself past the baseline you have created. To have Life worth living, excelling must be one of the stones on which you build all aspects of your Life.

Set a "Standard of Excellence" in intimate relationships, with family and friends, in money management, with your health, in keeping your home, in dealing with and in your community, in communication, in your business, and see how things begin to come alive in your Life. Raise the Standard. A Standard of perpetual motion, outdoing self to the next level daily – that is the Standard of Excellence. Go beyond the norm, be distinguishable, be excellent.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Journey of a Million Miles: Being in Harmony with the Flow of Life

Butterflies are one of my favorite creatures. Maybe it is due to the butterfly decal my Mom had on in the rear window of our 1970’s Ford Station Wagon. Butterflies seem to appear out of nowhere, when in fact, there is a process to them sprouting those beautiful wings, similar to the Life of a human being.

We all have a time where we will sprout wings. Metaphorically speaking, it comes at different times for everyone. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly occurs without struggle or strain; it is just a part of the cycle of the caterpillar to butterfly. There are over 160,000 types of butterflies in the world, just as there are differences in people. From the beginning a caterpillar is a voracious eater consuming food, just like in the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In the next phase, it ceases to consume food and goes into a “mummy-like” state. Some caterpillars go into this phase by covering themselves with a cocoon, hiding in dirt, or simply suspend themselves from trees using a silk pad attached to a tree. Whatever way they choose, the caterpillar goes into a world of its own until it is time for it to emerge. When the butterfly emerges from the cocoon it is unrecognizable, the creature that once was no longer exists.

The life of a caterpillar is not unlike the life of a human. At the beginning of life, we take in everything from food to noises to faces. At some point, there we break away and begin creating our own cocoon. It could be the cocoon of our friends, family, neighborhood, college, trade school, or job that serves to give us what we want. What happens in that cocoon can dictate our characteristics when we emerge, if we emerge at all. If the cocoon is too tight, gets damaged, or there is an accident the contents may be skewed, missing necessary elements, or not see the light of day. The cocoon is there to serve as a place for growth and development of the things necessary to survive in the next phase. When the butterfly becomes visible, they are miraculous.

Once the butterfly appears it instinctively goes on its way. Some butterflies are great navigators, flying 1800 miles to their Fall destination and meet up with others, while some stick around pollinating the plants. No matter what, each type does its job without fuss, fight, or complaint because it is in harmony with Life. Having harmony means your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings are in agreement. Harmony is not elusive; you can create harmony with these four ingredients:
1. Focus on Your Goal
2. Be Aware of What and Who Surrounds You
3. Put Your Feelings in Check
4. Fly, Fly, Fly

The next thing you know you will be in the flow of Life, your wings will appear.