#trainingformy40s

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: #eliwestfall (page 1 of 3)

Four Tools you should have in your Toolbox

There are four tools that everyone needs in their toolboxes. Not everyone has these tools and they can manage through life without them, but it certainly is easier with them.

I have been a proponent of strengths-based service delivery since before I even knew it was a thing. Strengths-based service delivery is centered around finding the strengths of those you are working with and building upon those strengths by adding more tools. I have taken very personally Abraham Maslow’s assertion that, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to approach every problem as a nail.’ I am not that much of a handyman or construction dude, but I have done enough shade tree projects to know you have to have the proper tools for the job. The same thing is true of life. If you want to overcome the stressor or difficulty facing you, you need the proper tools to overcome it. Here are four tools that I believe are essential for us all to possess in our toolboxes, whether we are helping other or just looking to overcome our own stressors.

  1. Empathy – Empathy can be defined in many ways, but simply put it is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Being able to understand their perspective and see the situation from their eyes. This goes a very long way when we are helping others, because we are able to step outside of ourselves and see things from their point of view and combining that with our knowledge assist them in devising a solution. It is also helpful because sometimes we are wrong and we need to see the other side in order to come to resolution. We need to know how we have hurt someone. We need to be able to understand how others think and feel. Additonally, empathy entails a genuine care and concern for others. This isn’t a sympathetic feeling sorry for others, it is an authentic care for them as people.
  2. Apathy – This may seem strange, but I have come realize I can only do so much. And it doesn’t matter how much I want something for you, if you don’t want it for yourself you will never change. As long as I can lay my head down at the end of the night knowing I have done all I can do, then I am good. You have to want it to and until you make the efforts to change or adjust, it doesn’t matter how I try to change you. This is the classic ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ scenario.
  3. Everyone has at least one strength – This is tough… because it doesn’t always feel like this is true. But deep inside, somewhere hidden amongst the mess is their strength. Is something they do well. Something they are proficient at. Something they are confident in. Finding this strength and building upon it is critical to working with others. And when we are facing our own struggles, it is critical to recall our own strengths and not dwell or wallow in our shortcomings. Which really leads to the last tool:
  4. We are the same – I learned very early on when working in child welfare (fancy name for the child abuse field), there was a fine line separating me from my clients. This is still true today. I have more tools, more resources, more supports but without them I would be in jeopardy of making choices and decisions I would regret. I have to realize the tools I have doesn’t make me ‘better’ but charges me with a responsibility to help others. This can also be worded as humility. Knowing I don’t have all the answers. Knowing I make mistakes and I am in need of the same grace I am offering you.

Having these tools doesn’t guarantee success or an easy life or whatever. But having them is one step closer to being better prepared to face whatever may come at you today.

What does God want from me?

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Three weeks ago at Grace Orlando we kicked off a new series of sermons. The series is entitled ‘One.’ With the main focus to unify the church (all 6 campuses) to one purpose. It’s sorta a capital campaign that is focusing more on 100% participation by the church members than it is on the money. It’s about discipleship more than anything.

During last week’s sermon, Pastor Mike asked the question – what is God asking you to give him that you aren’t sure you are going to be willing to give up? As I sat listening to the sermon, challenged to be sure, I wasn’t sure what God is asking of me. As the day progressed and I thought more about the sermon and talked it over with my wife, I think I may have come up with something. As I write this, I’m sitting in the lobby of a DCF office waiting for my new supervisor to come and get me. I think maybe one of the things God is asking me to give him is my job. Over the last few years, work had been pretty much what it always has been for me. After almost 20 years of work experience, the longest employment I’ve ever had anywhere is 3.5 years at a part-time job. I have lots of experience in essentially the same field, but very little in any given place for any amount of time.

Jack of all trades, Master of None.

This is how I feel. When I don’t feel like a failure for being almost 40 with nothing more to show for myself. (It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I feel the pull of this midlife thing.) I feel like I have the opportunity to start over. Begin again. Embark on a new career. And as such, I am committing this one to God. I am letting go of expectations or regrets and letting God supersede in this endeavor.

I will excel at this job, not for my own career advancement but to glorify God. I will realize this is my calling. This is where he has placed me.

As I sit here waiting for this job to start, I’m anxious and nervous… hope and waiting with anticipation. I am ready to go to work for God in the setting he has placed me.

To God be the glory.

Common Threads – What Kids Need Pt. 1

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I’m not an expert on anything… except maybe Jeeps and Star Wars. I would pit my knowledge of those two subjects against any other human on the planet and bet on myself every time. Hands down. Other than that, I’m not an expert in much of anything. But I pay attention to people, things and details. I watch. I listen. I take notes. I connect the dots. I read between the lines and see the picture beneath the surface. I cultivate an interest in behaviors and the motivation for the behaviors. I desperately want to understand the ‘why’ of what motivates each of us to act the ways we do. I make assessments and evaluations based on what I see, hear and observe.

As I look back on my professional career (which has involved a wide range of jobs/roles, but with one common thread throughout), it is clear working with youth and families has been the center of everything I have done for the last 20 years. I have worked with youth and families in a wide range of settings. Sometimes it has been fun. Sometimes it has been difficult. Sometimes it has been uncomfortable. Sometimes I have been an advocate. Sometimes I have been a fried. Sometimes I have been an adversary. Sometimes I have been a mentor, teacher or guide. And sometimes, I have been the ‘bad guy’.

Through it all, it has been highly rewarding for me personally. I have learned tons and grown much. I have jokingly called myself a ‘Jack of all Trades & Master of None’ due to wide variety of roles I have found myself in. The reality is, I have consistently worked with youth and families fro 20 years. It feels very good to be able to say I have been a field of work for that long. I have been told (finally) my resume is impressive. For someone who struggles with confidence (a shocker, I know) this is a much-desired boost.

In my current season, I am working as a therapist with an agency which allows me to offer therapeutic services to youth both at the homes and in their schools. On a side note, I really enjoy seeing a kid in their home and then seeing them at school and being able to see the difference of personalities that come out based on the setting. I spend a lot of time with kids these days. I spend a lot of time having fun, joking and laughing with kids. I spend a lot of time sitting in the homes of families. I lose a metric ton’s worth of card games in any given week. And sometimes it’s not on purpose. Haha. There’s more there for another time. I spend a lot of time one-on-one with kids trying to tear down the walls they have built to protect themselves. I get to take the time to just sit and talk to them. To play card games. To have conversations that don’t always have an agenda. I get to take a genuine interest in the menial things of life that matter most to kids.

As I have spent these hours with kids, I have started to notice some trends. I have begun to notice common threads running through the lives of each one. Abraham Maslow identified some basic needs each human being has and noted until we learn to meet each need as we develop in life, we can’t move on until we learn how to meet each need progressively. I find there is some truth to his assessments. I notice certain kids react or behave in specific ways towards me each time I see them. I have also come to realize, I can learn much about what is going on in the life of these kids based on how they respond to me. I can learn much about what affirmations they are getting… or not getting at home. I can learn about their insecurities and where they are confident.

I have noticed at least three common needs each of the kids I work with has. I think these three needs are common to the experience of every child. I believe every child looks to have these needs met by their parents and other family members, friends, teachers and other important figures in their lives. No doubt, there are many more than three needs each child needs to have met or affirmed, but these three seem to me to be common and are likely some of the easiest for us as parents to dismiss or to simply just miss on.

In our digital, global, information overload world with rapidly changing images and stimuli, we have cultivated a culture where less is more and this has bled over into our relationships and most detrimentally to our relationships with our children. As parents, we often look for ways for us to not give our kids the Attention they are looking for.

In a world where social media has become dominant and our relationships have become more and more surface with little actual substance or depth to them, we have created a culture where we have confused disconnection for connection. As parents, we have missed the critical aspect of Connecting with our kids and learning more about them than what kind of day they had at school.

In a world where we are strapped for time, being pulled a million different directions and our kids are bombarded with an ever-increasing amount of homework, sports, video games and Pokemon to catch, we have cultivated a culture where we are too busy watching mindless television and immersing ourselves in the ridiculous lives of unworthy role models we don’t take the time to actually play with our kids anymore. As parents, we relegate Playing with our kids to the iPad, Xbox, PS4 or whatever else we can so that we don’t have to be distracted from our Facebook feed.

In my work with youth and families, I have found these three needs do wonders for lives of the kids I work with. When I take a few minutes of the time I have with them each week, to invest in each of these needs I see a marked change in their attitudes and behaviors. I think these needs are critical and as parents we must work overtly to ensure we are reaching our kids in these three ways.

I’d like to take the next few weeks to discuss some of my observations on these needs and how I think we as parents can do better about meeting them. Will you join me in learning how we can meet the needs of our children?

I want Gatorade!


A few weeks ago, as I got the boys up and ready to go for school this happened:

Each day brings its own adventure. Each day brings its own challenges as a parent and as a human being. Today was no different. The boys were up til almost 11pm last night wrapping up homework. So we let them sleep in later than usual today. Got them up at 7:50. 
We quickly powered through breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth and combing hair with little incident. Lunches got packed, backpacks got packed and we prepared to walk out the door. 

That’s when it happened. 

Jagger realized he had lemonade in his lunch and one of his brothers had Gatorade in theirs. I did this because we didn’t have enough lemonade for everyone. And there was only a little Gatorade anyway. 

But Jagger, decided he wanted lemonade. So he threw himself on the floor and began to yell ‘I want Gatorade!’ As I headed for the door to leave, he changed his tune to, ‘I want water in my lemonade!’ By adding water, he would then have a full bottle of beverage to take with him. Which was the real dilemma for him. He was concerned that he wouldn’t have enough to drink today. 

He quickly made the change, then headed to the car. At that point, my 6th grader decided at plastic grocery sack didn’t make a cool lunch box (he’s lost 2 lunch boxes this week), so he was like ‘I have a sack in my room I can put this in’. 

Seriously? 

As I walk to the car, he grabs his sack and catches up to us. 

I have a full morning of counseling sessions planned, so I was absolutely prepared to drive off leaving young men stranded to find their own way to school this morning. 

Ruthless and reckless. That’s me. 
How was your morning?

First Week of School 2016-2017

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Here we are having finished the first week of school for the 2016-2017 school year. We have successfully navigated the beginning of middle school for our oldest son. We have survived our second son starting fifth grade and our youngest growing up into first grade. It has been quite the first week of school. There have been no major mishaps, but there has certainly been humor and growth along the way already.

We started the year, before it even started, in email communication with the principal asking for our 5th grader to be moved to another classroom. We were denied our request. We went into the year with trepidation over how this year is going to go for him. At the close of the first week, he is confident he will be ok in the class. There is much more to this story, but suffice it to say we are keeping an eye on the teachers and the school experience for him.

Our first grader seems to have had a first week without a hitch at all. He has a great teacher who is on maternity leave for the first month or so and his sub is fantastic. She has subbed at the school for years and she recognized Jagger at meet the teacher and it is going to be a good year.

Our 6th grader is the one we were most nervous about. Mainly because there is such a dramatic transition to 6th grade. He is the source of the most humorous moment of the week. Due to a scheduling mix up he ended up attending the wrong class at least one day, maybe more and was totally unaware of the experience! If Ronda hadn’t been checking his planner, no one would have been any wiser to this.

This week we also had several experiences which I would classify as significant progress in the development of these men we call our boys.

The first is brought to you by our 6th grader. He plays goal keeper on his premier level club team. Last year, US Youth Soccer changed the way they divided youth on teams. This is significant because it means he went from playing U11, 9v9 on a 75 yard field with a smaller goal to 11v11 on a full size field with a full size goal. He has a large learning curve ahead of him currently. This dramatically changes the nature of game for his age group. He asked if he could try out for the soccer team at his middle school. We said yes. He went to the first day of tryouts and had a really good showing – he was asked to come for the second day of tryouts. He made the cut, so to speak. That night, he approached my wife and I and asked if it was ok with us if he didn’t continue going to tryouts because he didn’t want to play for the school. We asked him why, and he said ‘I think with everything I have going on right now, I might be putting too much on my plate. I have a lot to learn for my premier team, I am still playing on an indoor soccer team too and on top of all of it, I’m in all honors classes this year. I think I already have a lot of work for me to do and adding this might be too much.’ We were like, whatever you wanna do, son. I was proud of him (I am proud of him no matter what, honestly. Or should I say I delight in him?) for having a moment of clarity and lucidity to realize he may not be able to do it all. If I have learned anything about myself, I have learned I am a visionary. I have big ideas and grand plans and significantly overestimate what I have the bandwidth to accomplish. This week, an 11 year old was able to do something I usually can’t – know his limitations. This was a moment that made me feel as though I had done something right as a parent. Or more realistically, my wife had done something right and he has just witnessed me get in over my head many times and decided he didn’t want to be like dear old dad. Either way, I am placing this experience firmly in the ‘parent win’ category.

The second is brought to you by our 5th grader. On Saturday, his soccer team had their first scrimmage. Kick off was at around 1pm. If you don’t frequent Florida in the summer at 1pm, you may not know it is hot as balls or hell… whichever you determine to be worse. It was wicked hot. His team managed to get scheduled to play an older, more established team (my son’s team has a new coach and many new players whom this was their first on-field experience together). Our team lost, but my son played with a headache and low blood sugar the whole game. He played hard and he played good. He was subbed out for a short time and was put back in and finished the game. This was very frustrating for me, because I know he can play better soccer than what he did at that game. But he finished the game. He was in tears at the end of the game partially because he felt as though he could have done better and because his head hurt him so much. I am proud (Or should I say, I delight in it?) of his determination commitment and strength of character to finish the game, even though the easier road was to give up. His character stood strong.

As we move to my youngest son and I am reminded he has a constant spirit of joy. He is the happiest little boy I have ever met. From the moment he was born, he has brought joy to our family. He is happy and enjoys his life. I am proud (Or I delight) in the way he brightens up the room and brings happiness and joy to our family. He has hit this first week of school in stride and has had fun during it. He is growing so fast, yet he still takes time to snuggle and cuddle with his mother and I. He takes time to bring us some of the joy he feels each day.

All in all, this has been a good first week of school. The boys have been fantastic. Each day I am reminded of the blessing it is to be a father. I hope each week is as good as this first week.

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