Friday, December 31, 2010

Major Milestone and Year In Review!

Well, well, well. Today is December 31. Ready or not, here comes 2011. This coming new year holds so many promises to each of us. As we prepare to welcome 2011, I thought I’d take today’s post to reflect on how far we’ve come since we launched The Upbeat Dad.
On Monday, October 4, 2010, I introduced this blog to the world with the post The Official Launch of The Upbeat Dad. As I mentioned on The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad, the vision has been years in the making. But I strongly felt that the timing was right to launch this project.
Here we are, just under 3 months later. And oh, what a ride it’s been! I set a dream goal of 3,000 pageviews worldwide by December 31. That milestone was passed well over a month ago. And yesterday, we hit the 5,000 pageviews milestone - yes, 5,000! What an accomplishment! I could tell you the different things I’ve done to reach this milestone but quite frankly, the credit goes to you for tuning in on a daily basis. I try to touch on different areas in my posts each day but without you, it wouldn’t be possible, so I thank you.
We have established a worldwide following. As I’ve said before, we have readers on every continent except Antarctica! Here is a list, in order of number of pageviews, of our top 10 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Croatia, Japan, Russia, India, Germany, Australia.
Here's a highlight of some of our accomplishments thus far:

1. In mid-November, I wrote a post entitled NBA Star Dwyane Wade's Got His Priorities Straight. In that post I shared how Wade prioritized being a loving father to his two boys. I later wrote the post A Big Boost from NBA Star Dwyane Wade to share the story about how I sent the article to Wade and he replied saying, “Thanks for noticing” and then he sent it to over 700,000 people who follow him on Twitter.

That kind act on his part brought hundreds of new readers to the blog over just the next few hours. Still, to this day, that article is the most read of any post I’ve written. We have readers who tune in on a daily basis because this article brought them to the blog and they like what they've seen so they come back often. Kudos to my fellow Miami resident, D. Wade for that!

2. In November, we launched a weekly feature called Upbeat Dad of the Week. In this feature, we highlight fathers who have demonstrated that they are exceptional dads. Here is a list of all the features we have done in this series thus far:

3. With the holiday season approaching, we did a two-day post about drunk driving and its effects. Our post Put Down That Drink, Aren’t You Driving Home? highlights the general impact of drunk driving. The next day, our post Person of the Week: Myra McRoy Constable  told the story of a lady who became a young widow after her husband died in a single car collision after a night of drinking. This post is quite popular. To date, it’s our 3rd most read article.

4. In posts such as When Good Fathers Go Bad and Cats in the Cradle: A Life Lesson for Working Parents I implore fathers to ensure they prioritize time with their children, especially when marriages and other relationships end.

5. I visited the city of New Orleans just after Thanksgiving and wrote the post Profound Lesson for the Divorced From New Orleans Visit. In that post I wrote about how the city rose to its feet after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Then I shared how the divorced can make a comeback after going through their own catastrophe. That post is quite popular among our readers as it is one of our most read posts to date.

6. When Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate, John Edwards, passed away, I wrote A Tribute to Elizabeth Edwards: A Lasting Legacy. That post seems to have struck a chord with our readers. It's the 4th most read of our posts.

So that’s a bit of what we’ve been up to these past few months. What an exciting journey it’s been! I try to do a post each day so that there's always something fresh and new. Beginning  this coming Monday, January 3, I will preview where we’re going in 2011. I have a great vision so I invite you to remain engaged with us.

As always, our Facebook page is a way to make the experience interactive. If you haven’t already done so, please visit the page and if you like what you see, “Like” it so you can follow our posts.
Also, we are quite active on Twitter so I encourage you to follow us. We constantly send out messages that we think will help families to become closer. And as with our Facebook page, it makes our experience interactive.
I hope that you ring in the New Year with a great, safe celebration. I wish you and your family the very best for a prosperous and successful 2011.
The best is yet to come. See you next year!
The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections as we Prepare to Welcome a New Year!

Well, what can I say? Ready or not, here comes 2015. Today’s the last day of the year and then we welcome 2015 with open arms. In these last days of the year, I’ve been in a reflective mood. I’ve thought about life in general and the purpose of my life specifically. I’ve thought about you – the readers of this blog. I’ve considered what more I can do to help families across the world to become closer as a result of the active participation of each family member, particularly the fathers. I have come to realize that the mission of The Upbeat Dad is necessarily global. All over the world, there is a general lack of involvement on the part of fathers due to various reasons.

Some of these reasons are cultural. In Jamaica where I’m from originally, it’s unfortunate but true that men routinely have children with multiple women without ever having the intent to marry any of them. They populate communities with children who they hardly ever get to know. Just yesterday I was speaking with a colleague who visited Brazil a few years ago. He mentioned that there is a similar epidemic in that country. Here in the United States, this issue is widespread in the inner city. I interact quite often with individuals who attest to this disturbing fact.
The more I interact with people around the world through this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter, the more I realize that the issues that I write about are very real and multiple families are affected when fathers are visibly absent from our homes. We’ve spoken about some of the reasons. I write about them all the time. In some cases, men are to blame. In some cases, women are to blame. And in other cases, the family law system is to blame. Whatever the case, whoever is to blame, children are negatively affected when fathers are not involved in their children’s lives. That, we can pretty much all acknowledge.
I talk a lot. I write a lot. But as you may have heard before, talk is cheap. It is very cheap, therefore as I’ve written in previous posts, beginning in January, I will begin unveiling a plan that has been years in development – a plan to impact the lives of millions of people globally. The plan that I’ve envisioned has taken some time to come together. And while it’s been coming together, I have seen families fall by the wayside, taking collateral damage with them – their children.
It’s not that I’ve been totally passive as this plan has come together. I was a regular divorced dad with a child who lived with her mother. Then I became a single dad with a child living with me. In early 2009, I got married. And in August 2010, I became a father again.
Over these past few years, I have spoken to different groups on a small scale about some ideas that I have, but never to the extent that I will be doing in a short while.  Please remain engaged in our conversation because with every fiber of my being, I’m committed to seeing with my eyes what I’ve seen in my head for almost 10 years.
As I alluded to in The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad, the timing was never right to share this message. It is now. I’m making today’s post a bit late in the day because I was waiting to officially hit the 5,000 pageview milestone. That was reached earlier this afternoon! Thank you for helping to make it happen. This is just one of the many signs that confirm that the timing of the launch of The Upbeat Dad was ideal.
On Fridays, we generally do our Upbeat Dad of the Week feature. This Friday, we will pause and reflect on the year to which we’re bidding farewell. We will do a year in review – a look back at what we’ve accomplished on the blog to this point, in just under 3 months. You will be amazed as you read about what we’ve accomplished together. Then next Friday, we will resume our weekly Upbeat Dad of the Week feature.
Each day as I prepare to write, I picture the globe and the nations of the world. That’s our audience – the world. Anywhere that fathers and mothers and kids live, that’s our market.  Do stay tuned because I believe that the best is yet to come.
Please know that our mission remains focused on one primary issue – developing men into loving fathers who are worthy of the title “dad”, which is a term of endearment. Kids never ask to come into the world. They are conceived and are born through no choice of theirs. We have rights as fathers, as do mothers. But as I’ve stated a few times, I consider fatherhood more a privilege than a right. What an honor to help to shape and mold innocent lives.
Do join us in this global campaign to create more involved, dedicated fathers who are excited about their very unique role. In other words, let’s create more upbeat dads and less deadbeats. I’m committed to this cause because I see it as the cause of a lifetime. Our children will be the better for it and I’m sure that our lives will be more fulfilling as a result.
We’ll “see” you tomorrow. Don’t forget, we’ll do a year in review. Then we’ll do a sneak preview of what’s in store for us as we take our journey into 2014.
Enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Will You Leave a Legacy of Love When It’s Your Time to Go?

The year is quickly coming to an end – only a couple more days to go. Time is really going by quickly isn’t it? A common practice among news organizations is to highlight celebrities and other well known people who passed away during the year. Sometimes we don’t remember that we lost a well known figure until we see these year-end obituaries. If you don’t believe me, just turn on your television news over these next few days and you’ll see – there will be someone who you forgot passed away during the year. 
Whenever I see these recaps, it’s somewhat of an eye opener for me. You see, my prayer and my hope is that I will live 90 productive years and then I can go. But the reality is that tomorrow’s not promised to anyone. We are here today and gone tomorrow and that’s just the reality of it.
I wrote A Tribute to Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate, John Edwards, a few weeks ago as she lost her battle with breast cancer. It was while they were on the campaign trail in 2004 that she discovered a lump in her breast. And though she fought a valiant battle, she lost that battle 6 years later.
At least Elizabeth Edwards was able to prepare for the end. Some people will leave home today to go about their regular lives and not make it back to their loved ones. Accidents happen; life happens and that’s just the reality. We do what we can to minimize the likelihood of catastrophe coming our way. But even the best preparation can’t totally eliminate the probability that we might be the next one to make our exit from this world. That’s a pretty sobering thought but it’s also very true.
I don’t write this to scare us or make us uncomfortable. Rather, I write it to motivate, encourage and inspire us. Every time – literally, every time – I hear of someone famous or someone known to me who passes away, I am reminded that at some point, I will also make my exit. I hope it’s much later rather than sooner but it’s as inevitable as the sun rising and setting. With this knowledge, I am inspired to love my loved ones even more.
To me, when people pass away, as sad as those occasions might be, it’s something to remind us that we ought to make our lives count. We should live each day as if it were our last. That’s not to suggest that we think 24/7 about dying – who would want to do that? But rather, we should try to get the most out of every day. Therefore, we should let our friends and loved ones know how much they mean to us.
Our spouses and our children, for those of us fortunate enough to have them, are special gifts and they ought to be treasured. I believe that we should maximize each moment that we get to spend with them. James Taylor sang:
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will.

I wonder how many fathers have passed away and their children met them for the first time at the funeral. And I wonder how many have gotten ill and only then they decided to make peace with their children whom they neglected all of their lives? Hhhmm, makes you think, right?

A friend of mine went to a funeral just last month and he told me that that was the most depressing service that he’d ever attended. It was the service for a man who passed away after a brief illness. His children spoke at the service and in front of the congregation, they told of the emptiness they felt because their father was never there for them and now he’s gone. I don’t know why they opted to share that information on such an occasion but still, his children never felt his love and they chose to let it be known publicly.
I would like to think that whenever I do pass away, my wife and children – and hopefully grandchildren – can attest to the love and devotion that I expressed to them. I do have a worldwide audience of readers and because of my work and certain plans that I have for The Upbeat Dad, I believe that I will become more well-known. I would like to impact the lives of people around the world.
But nothing means more to me than touching the lives of those in my own household. What a tragedy it would be if through my work I impact the lives of millions around the world, yet my wife and children can say that I wasn’t there for them and that I neglected my first responsibility, which is to love and care for them. If that could be said of me, any success that I may have would really be a failure, in my view. My love and devotion should start in the home and then the world can be impacted.
What about you? When the inevitable occurs and you pass away, what will be said of you? If you could be in the audience at your funeral, would you be proud of the words that are shared as your friends and loved ones speak about you? Would your spouse and children be able to truthfully speak of your love and care for them?
My dad told me several years ago of a man who passed away. At the funeral, everyone spoke of how good and loving he was. After sitting and listening to all the tributes, his wife, who sat in the front row with her kids, asked one of the kids to go and open the casket and see who is in it because she didn’t know the man that they were talking about. How awful of a testimony that was – those who knew him best couldn’t truthfully speak of his love and kindness.
As we wind down this year, I hope that this message is a reminder to you of what your first priorities are. I know that work and building business relationships are important. But the home is where our hearts should be first. When our days in this world have ended, it’s the legacy of love that we leave that will impact our friends and loved ones for ages to come.
I’ll close this post with the last two stanzas from my poem, A Lasting Legacy. The poem is found in my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self-Motivation:
Whenever I come to the end of my days
and I go to my final resting place—
when the sun goes down and I finish this race,
may I leave this world a better place.

This is my vow to humanity—
a vow that will last all eternity.
For my children and all who will come after me,
may I leave a lasting legacy.

I hope that you have a great day.
The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Making Hay While the Sun Shines!

I can’t believe that we have less than a week left in year. Where did the time go? And doesn’t it just seem like a year or two ago that we were talking about the New Millennium and Y2K and the related possible technological issues? Yep, time does fly, especially when you’re having fun.
I was just thinking about our roles as dads and moms.  Our kids grow up so fast don’t they? Our daughter was just a baby in my arms a couple of years ago – but now she’s 12. I remember I used to hold her in one hand like a football. Now she’s a young lady, almost fully grown. She sends text messages and has her group of friends that she hangs out with at school and at church.
We also have a 4 ½ month old son and he’s a joy and a wonder. In the few months of his life so far, there are so many stages that he’s passed through already. First he was just a newborn who did not even know how to feed. Then he learned that. Along the way, we’ve seen him learn how to smile. And then laugh. He’s trying to move his limbs now, getting them ready so that in a short while he can begin creeping. Before long, he’ll begin walking, then talking. All of this is about going through the natural stages of life.
In the midst of all the changes that our kids go through, it can be so easy to miss the different stages. Even our son’s features today are not what they were a month or two ago. If we hadn’t captured each stage by either photograph or videocamera, we probably wouldn’t even notice these changes.
My mother taught me the proverb, “Make hay while the sun shines.” In other words, take advantage of the opportunities you have while you have them because they won’t always be available to you. With our children, if we don’t give them the basic guidance from their early stages, then we can really miss out on opportunities to give them what they need to succeed in life.
Another proverb that I learned is, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That is quite profound and so true. Our daughter is 12 years old now and in the 7th grade. In another few years, she’ll be college bound and after that she’ll be legally an adult. And though we can teach and guide her in adulthood, it’s much better to provide this guidance while she is young so that it becomes a way of life for her.
As I have stated on a number of posts including The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad, I have a passion for families in general, but especially those that are affected by divorce. I particularly have a burden for the children that are products of these broken homes that result when families fall apart. One of my concerns is that too many fathers are absent in their kids’ lives. Some are involved but as soon as the marriages and other relationships end, they decide to also give up on their roles as fathers.
The absentee father syndrome is an epidemic. A couple of months ago I spoke to a group of 4th and 5th graders and after my presentation I had a discussion with one of their teachers. He told me that none – not even one – of the kids that I spoke with has a father living in the home. And furthermore, very many of them don’t even know who their father is.

I cannot imagine my son and daughter growing up and going through their different stages and phases and I voluntarily make myself absent from their lives. Yet, that is a way of life for millions of fathers. While I recognize that some fathers may be negative influences on their kids, the vast majority of them can have a positive impact if they’d only be involved. But all too often, they make the decision to be absentee fathers and that’s so unfortunate.
I recognize that the family law system can be unjust. I have written blog posts about that – such as The Great Oxymoron: Family Law and What Exactly is Child Support? I also recognize that in many cases, the mothers of our children can be difficult to deal with. But as difficult as it may be to deal with those forces, our kids are not at fault so they shouldn’t suffer. When we take responsibility for the well-being of our kids, then any obstacle that we face can, at best, be temporary. Millions of fathers all over the world are missing out on their kids' lives. I really do hope that through this blog and my organization, I can help to serve as an agent of change in their mindset.
I know what it’s like to go through a divorce and have a young child caught in the middle of that unpleasant process. I also know what it’s like to feel as if the system is designed to function against me. Yet today our daughter is a wonderful, well-adjusted 12 year old on her way to doing great things. She has two parents who love her and are actively involved in her life. I’m fortunate to have married again and have another child. And I’m very fortunate that my daughter and her step-mother, my wife, get along just great.
Many readers of this blog are men but consistently as I review the statistics on a daily basis, 60% of our readers are women. I’m truly thankful that the content of the message I share appeals to both genders because my goal is to impact the lives of our children as a result of them having loving, involved dads. Men, women and kids all benefit when fathers are involved.
I hope that you understand why I write as I do. This matter is of extreme importance to me. The great institution of the family is in crisis and a large part of that has to do with fathers neglecting their very important roles. Please join me in this campaign to have more upbeat dads and less deadbeats. If you haven't already done so, please join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We’re looking for a few good men to step up and accept, with great enthusiasm, their role as dads, not simply biological fathers.
Gentlemen, let’s live our lives in such a way that our sons would want to be like us and our daughters would want to marry men with our qualities. To our female readers I say, hang in there. We’re working on something big here. And I feel certain that our kids will benefit from our efforts.
Our kids won’t be young forever. Let’s make hay while the sun shines.
Have an excellent day.
The Upbeat Dad

Monday, December 27, 2010

Making the Most of Lame Duck Week!

I hope you’re gearing up for another good week – the last week of the year. You may wonder what I mean by the title of this post “Making the Most of Lame Duck Week.” This is a term that I use to describe the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  

I don’t know the specifics of the origin of the term “lame duck” but it’s used to refer to a transitional period in which one party yields control to another party, making the party currently in control a “lame duck.” In athletics, when a coach is in the final year of his/her contract – one that will not be renewed – it is often stated that he/she is a lame duck coach. So these coaches are essentially fulfilling the terms of their agreement but will not return the following year in the same capacity.

In the United States, whenever a November election is held, the winners aren’t sworn into office until January. President Obama won the 2008 presidential election but he didn’t officially assume his role as leader of the country until the third week of January 2009. Therefore, President Bush, the outgoing leader, was a lame duck president. Just last month, mid-term elections were held in both houses of Congress. The winners of these elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate will not be sworn in until January. Likewise, the incumbents who lost the election will remain in office until the winners are sworn in.

Throughout my years in the professional world, I think that the slowest time period is this Lame Duck Week. There’s not much happening from a business standpoint. There are few industries (i.e. retail, auto) that have significant business during this last week of the year. Otherwise, it’s pretty slow. During this week, many people take vacations to really enjoy the remainder of the holiday season with their families. Some take ski trips to close out the year, while others take a Caribbean or Hawaiian getaway trip before returning to business as usual.
There are different ways to view Lame Duck Week. For some business owners, they can’t wait for the week to be over because they have fixed expenses (i.e. rent, payroll) and not much business is taking place. Some employees, on the other hand, love it because they do minimal work but still get paid the same.
Based on my experience, this week can be viewed in the same way that we treat the question, “Is the glass half empty of half full?” It depends on your perspective. When I was an employee, I loved it. Little work, light traffic, no overtime – it was perfect. But now, as a business owner, I have developed a different view of it. This period can be very slow for a company trying to grow.

What I’ve done over the past few years is take this week to do some forecasting for the coming year – both professional and personal. In the business world, corporate budgets are proposed and finalized at the end of the year. It is during this time that strategic decisions are made concerning the direction of the company. Just as in athletics, you could call the end of the year the pre-season before the real season begins. And as in athletics, the overall strategy is laid out during the pre-season. When the season begins, you want to know what your strengths are and how you will make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
Last week I wrote a post called Year-End Inventory. In that post I challenged us to take inventory of our family relationships and determine what we need to do to get the most out of these relationships.  This week is an excellent time to forecast where we’d like to be in our family lives. Here are some tips:
1.   Set family goals – This is the most important thing you can do for your family at this point. Consider and write down the things you would like to accomplish in the coming year. If you’re single and you’re in a relationship, perhaps you may plan to get married. If you’re married without kids, perhaps you may want to start a family. If you’re divorced with kids, perhaps you’ve lost a connection with them and need to re-establish the loving relationship you once shared.

2.   Plan family dates – Isn’t it amazing how, when we’re courting someone, we say and do everything to impress them? We always make time for them and take them to the fanciest restaurants and show them a nice time. Then comes real life – marriage, kids, work, and bills. It’s easy to become so overwhelmed with life and just trying to keep up that we lose sight of the most important things – spending quality time with those who mean the most to us. Maybe you can plan to have a special family date every Friday night. And while you’re at it, why don’t you schedule some time for you and your spouse – without the kids. That time can be pretty special and a good way to reconnect with your spouse.

3.   Establish a budget – Budget setting is an essential part of any functioning business entity. The home functions are a business, in a sense. We have revenues and expenses that are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our “home-based businesses.” There are various types of software available to help your family plan and forecast your financial lives for the coming year. Perhaps this is the year you will actually take that family vacation to Disney World that you promised the kids. With proper budgeting and planning, you can make it happen without becoming financially strapped in the process.

4.   Expect the Unexpected – This tip is the most difficult of all. That’s because life happens – and much of what happens in life is out of our control. Some of us will find true love this coming year. Some will lose a relationship to divorce or separation. Some will lose loved ones. These are things that we cannot adequately prepare for. The reason I give this tip is to encourage us to treasure each moment that we have with each other. Some of us may have relationships and friendships that we need to make right. Some have taken loved ones for granted, especially our kids and spouses. Tomorrow’s not promised so by making the most of each moment, we can live life to its fullest with minimal regret.

I hope that these tips will help as you get ready to close out another year. Interestingly, you may have seen on the news that in Washingdon DC, Congress, during the current lame duck session, passed more bills than during any lame duck session in decades. The lame duck period is truly one that can set the course of great things to happen.
Let’s make the most of this week as we prepare to welcome a new year that’s full of promise. Get going today and see how much progress you can make these next few days as you forecast a successful year for you and your family. 

Enjoy the day. All the best to you and yours.
The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Welcome New Countries - December 26, 2010!

We'd like to welcome the following countries that have joined our growing list of readers over the past week: Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia!

Please check out The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad to find out what we're all about! Also, at the top of the page, look for the section: Check Out Our Most Popular Posts to see the stories that our readers like the most. Each Friday we do an Upbeat Dad of the Week feature where we highlight a father whose involvement has made his kids' lives better.

We encourage you to become engaged in our conversation by posting comments to the posts you read. Also, join us on Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

You'll enjoy and share our excitement about fatherhood. Everybody's welcome - dads, moms, kids and anyone who believes strong, involved fathers help make strong kids.

Come back often. There's always something new!

Have an excellent day!

The Upbeat Dad

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you've had a wonderful day with those you love. Today was a special day in so many ways. Our family got together and as usual, we had a great time with. This won't be a regular, thought-provoking post. There's plenty of time for that. I just wanted to chime in briefly to say Merry Christmas to each of you. I also realize that many of you don't celebrate Christmas so let me say Happy Holidays. Either way, I hope you've had a great season. And I hope you've had the chance to spend some quality time with your families.

You'll hear more in the coming days about how I spent this Christmas Day but for now I'll just say it was quite memorable. I write so much about creating lasting memories and today was one of those days. I feel specially blessed to have the family that I do. I'm quite aware that not everyone has a similar privilege so I'm just thankful and grateful to be surrounded by those that mean the most to me at the most wonderful time of the year.

How was your day? Did you go visiting? Or did family come over to spend the day? Did your Christmas dreams come true? If you're a regular reader of the blog you'll know that I encourage men to be involved with their kids, especially when the kids don't live with them on a daily basis. Today was a big opportunity to demonstrate that. If you're one of these dads, what did you do that made your kids' day? What presents did you buy? What time did you spend with them? Did you make that special phone call to let them know you're thinking of them? All of these a simply seeds being sown in your kids' lives to let them know that you value them greatly.

Today was a day to put your love into action. I hope you went beyond the call of duty and got an A for effort. It's not about how much money you spend - it's the fact that you consider your kids important enough to demonstrate your love for them in tangible ways. Love is a noun and also a verb. Verb suggests action so I hope you put your love into action today.

The holiday season is a special time of the year. Our kids will remember the events of this day for years to come. I hope that you helped them to have a pleasant, memorable time. There is so much that lies ahead in their lives. So I hope you're helping to create special, long-lasting memories for them.

I wish for you and yours all the best for the remainder of the season.

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, December 24, 2010

Creating Precious Christmas Memories

Tomorrow’s Christmas Day and as I write this, I’m sure many are relaxing, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to make their annual world tour all in one night. While others of us are hitting the malls in one last attempt to get those perfect gifts for our friends and loved ones before the malls close early.  
This is just an awesome and special time for families. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas get into the season by getting together with friends and family and having a great time. It’s a time when we forget about our troubles and just look at everything that’s good in the world. It is indeed a precious time.
It’s funny how there are those here in South Florida who insist that they can’t get into the Christmas season because of the weather. They’re used to having a white Christmas with snow all around so having temperatures in the 70s and 80s makes it feel like summer to them instead of the season to be jolly. Then there are those like me who grew up in the tropics and Christmas time is shorts and t-shirt time. 

That was my life – Christmas on Christmas Island! I even remember when Santa came to a nearby town and I was thinking, “Wow, Santa could be anywhere in the world today but he chose to come to our small little island.” Ahh, the days of childhood!
I never really got into Christmas quite as much when we moved to Houston, Texas. I lived there for 14 years and though the presents and egg nog were great, the wintery weather – though not as cold and snowy as up north – was too much for me. Christmas is about dressing in shorts and t-shirts and possibly going fishing. That’s the life I knew.
What about you? What thoughts do you have on growing up at Christmas time? I’m sure many of my Florida friends are yearning to be up north where they’re from because you simply don’t have Christmas in the sun. This isn’t Christmas at all. But what traditions did you grow up with? Each family’s experience is different I’m sure. But for the most part, we have pleasant thoughts about family gatherings during this time.
How special it is when we can forget about the world and its problems and the economic downturn and just look at everything that’s right with the world. The love, the laughter, the meals – everything just seems to come together.
A large part of my vision for the Upbeat Dad is to encourage those who’ve been divorced. During the holidays, while everyone is having a jolly time, there are those among us who are hurting. I wrote two posts around Thanksgiving a month ago that tell of my personal experience when I was one of those hurting during the holidays while going through a divorce. It’s not easy at all. Here are those posts – Thanksgiving 2010 vs Thanksgiving 2001: What a Difference!  and Broken-Hearted And Alone During The Holidays? Cheer Up, There's Hope. 
When I think on those days, I smile because though I was experiencing some turbulence in my life, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, everything just seemed right. Our family got together and we laughed and joked and had a good time, forgetting about the challenges of the moment.
During this wonderful time, perhaps you might be facing some challenges. But as my mom always says, “Where there is life, there is hope.” Relax and take it easy these next few days and just think of everything that is good with the world.
Our kids are so special and precious. Whatever may be going on in your world, for this season, do your best to help them enjoy every moment. When they grow older, they’ll look back at their childhood and what they will remember most will be the festive occasions when friends and family got together and everything seemed right.

As dads and moms, we have a great responsibility. Our kids’ happiness is really in our hands. It’s not so much about the toys that we might get them wrapped under their Christmas tree – it’s about the love we share and demonstrate to them. That will impact them for a lifetime.
I know many kids have an empty feeling this Christmas season because their dad is nowhere to be found. And he didn’t even bother to call or send a present. That can scar a child for decades. Many kids grow up with an emptiness because though their mom was a supermom and a great provider, the void in them that can only be filled by a father’s love still remains. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like without either of my parents. I don’t even want to entertain the thought of having grown up that way because both my dad and mom helped to shape and mold me in ways that have had a lasting impact.
Many kids do not know what that life is like. I can understand that some fathers have passed away. I can also understand that many dads are bad influences on their kids and the kids are probably better off anyway. But for many kids, their lives would be better if only their dad would care to be involved in their lives. If you’re guilty of being an absentee dad, why don’t you make that phone call today. Or make a special trip to see your kids. And stop at the mall and get something to brighten their day. It’s not about getting something expensive – it’s the thought that counts. Our kids need us more than we may know.
I hope that this Christmas will be special for you and yours. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. You’ve worked hard this year. Now sit back and relax and enjoy some quality time with those you love. And if you haven’t been there for your kids, why don’t you make it right by starting today?
I wish you a Merry Christmas and everything that’s good for the remainder of the season. And I hope yours and your kids’ Christmas dreams come true.
The Upbeat Dad

In my childhood in Jamaica, my favorite Christmas album was one by the Lennon Sisters. There’s a song on that album that I just loved called Christmas Island. It sounded somewhat Hawaiian. Some of the lyrics were:
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to spend the holiday away across the sea?
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?

How'd ya like to stay up late, like the islanders do?
Wait for Santa to sail in with your presents in a canoe.
If you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island
You will never stray for everyday
Your Christmas dreams come true.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Live a Purpose Driven Life

As you may know, yesterday I celebrated my birthday. It was a great birthday – quite honestly, the best one I’ve ever had. I’m not just saying that for the sake of saying it, it’s really the best one. There are a number of reasons why I say that but the most significant one is this: I have never been surer about my purpose than I am right now. That’s a powerful statement to make but that’s my honest and true assessment.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Birthday Reflections, every year as my birthday ends, I actually bid it farewell until the next year. I typically go outside and take a ½ hour walk starting at about 11:45 PM. During that walk, I reflect on how far I’ve come since my last birthday. And then I think further on what I’d like to accomplish over the next year. I pray and ask for guidance along this journey. It’s really a powerful self-check – a personal inventory, if you will. And then I try to refocus on the task at hand as I try to maximize my effectiveness in life.
Last night’s reflection walk was powerful. I thought of my newly expanded family (our son was born this past August). I also thought of my new family – The Upbeat Dad and its readers. These are people all over the world, many of whom I may never meet. Yet I consider our readers as family because, in a sense, we’re on the same team – we care about our children and want the best for them. And our readers recognize the importance that a loving, caring dad has in a child’s life. As dads, moms and kids read our blog, this is the consistent message that we try to convey.
After coming back from my walk, I had a little down time before going to sleep. But it’s as if I had turned on a faucet while reflecting and couldn’t turn it off. I was able to see, in a very real sense, the things that I’ve envisioned over the past several years coming to pass. I’m just taking notes on these things and getting in place because this coming year, I expect to see some monumental accomplishments. I have never been at this point before in my entire life and that’s what so thrilling to me!
In athletics, teams start each season trying to get better. And some of them have a realistic chance of winning a championship. They envision greatness and work relentlessly towards achieving that level of success. When they are successful and are right on the brink of reaching their collective goal – a championship – it’s a thrilling moment, one that they greatly anticipate. Right now, I feel as if for all of my life, I have had certain goals and ideals that I’ve aimed for. And over time, that which I aim for has become more clearly defined. And now, I’m really on the brink of attaining a significant feat.
This feat that I speak of has little to do with me. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, we’d acknowledge that what is most fulfilling to us, is knowing that through our efforts and commitment, others’ lives are enhanced.  Our lives have greater meaning and purpose when we’re in service for our fellow men. A doctor may become wealthy and drive a fancy car but he or she does so by helping others to become healthy. That’s the reward – not the material things that are gained in the process.
When a singer gets on stage and shares the gift of song with thousands of screaming fans, it’s not the revenue earned from concert tickets or royalties from CD sales that satisfy them – but rather, it’s knowing that they’re inspiring and satisfying these adoring fans. We all have that inner need to be of service to our fellow men and until we fulfill that need, any success we may appear to have is somewhat empty.
For me, having been raised in a wonderful, loving two parent household, I know that my life is so much better for it. So when I went through a divorce and got an eye opener going through the whole family law process, I realized just how negatively families are affected when happy homes become broken homes. I made a vow then to make a difference in the lives of families, to whatever extent possible. Because when I saw my 3 year old daughter go through the pain of seeing her parents divorced, I wanted to ensure that as few families as possible would find themselves in that plight. That marriage ended but I wanted to keep as many families together as possible.
I also know that many fathers simply do not care to fulfill their obligations to their children. I really don’t understand that mindset but I know it’s a reality. Just 2 weeks ago I met a divorced mother who told me that she knows things are tough economically so she doesn’t even mind the fact that her former husband can’t send money to help support the kids. She just wants him to call them and keep in touch. Far too many men see the ending of their relationship with a woman as the ending of their relationship with their kids. How sad and unfortunate.
On the other hand, I know many women who recognize that the family law system generally favors them so they seek to exploit that same system, thinking that they’re just hurting the fathers of their children. They do hurt the fathers, no doubt, but in the process they hurt their own kids even more. The kids become nothing more than pawns in a game of power struggle. When different parties think that they win because they get what they wanted through the legal process, quite often, the children are more damaged than they would’ve ever imagined.
Children are wonderful and so innocent that it pains me to see their plight when families fall apart. So I made a vow to not simply sit back and be a critic. I want to do something about it. This is really my life’s mission – a calling, if you will. To be at this point now, on the brink of seeing what I’ve envisioned for most of the past decade coming to pass, is thrilling – not because of me, but for the sake of our children – all our children all over the world.
Let me ask some simple questions of you: What is your life’s purpose? What is your calling? What injustice do you see in the world that you know how to make right? What service do you think you can offer to your fellow men that would not only help them greatly, but would make your life more meaningful and complete? Did you know that there are tasks that only you can accomplish? Yes, you. And until you do those tasks, any success you may have, would be somewhat hollow and meaningless. I heard someone say several years ago, “It’s like a voice is inside of you saying, `you’ve done everything but you haven’t done me!’” We all have that voice.
Our lives have greater impact when we have a purpose driven life – one in which we’re not just going to work to collect a pay check so that we can accumulate more things. Fulfillment is something that you simply cannot buy. I encourage you to seek to live a life of purpose, one that helps others. This isn’t necessarily a call to social work and charitable endeavors, as noble as those callings may be. It’s a call to serve with our time and talents. If it’s as a banker, then do so, helping people by meeting their banking needs. If it’s as a teacher, do so, imparting into your students the knowledge and wisdom that you’ve gained. If it’s as an entertainer, do so, knowing that people have choices in entertainment so you give them nothing less than your very best every time you have the opportunity to entertain.
You understand where I’m going with this? I sure hope you do because when you look at the lives of great men and women throughout history, this one trait is common in their life story – they have lived and in the process, they served mankind with their gifts. And when they pass on, they leave a legacy that impacts the world for generations to come.
As we live purpose driven lives, we also are shining examples for our children. They too will learn to live lives of purpose. Our 12 year old daughter already has the mindset that she is obligated to share her gifts with others. And I will teach these same principles to our 4 month old son as he grows.
Do teach these principles to your children. Encourage them to learn as much as possible in school. Find out from them what they desire to be when they grow up. But please, I ask of you, don’t focus so much on how much money they will make – ask them, who will benefit from the service that they offer. If your child wants to become a police officer, focus more on the fact that they will protect the public, rather than thinking of the excellent salary and retirement package that the police department offers. Likewise, if they want to go into politics, focus more on the fact that they can help to enact laws that will help our society in a meaningful way. This is what we call a purpose driven life.
I’ll close with the last two stanzas from my poem A Lasting Legacy, found in my book, Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation:
Whenever I come to the end of my days
And I go to my final resting place
When the sun goes down and I finish this race
May I leave this world a better place.

This is my vow to humanity
A vow that will last all eternity
For my children and all who will come after me
May I leave a lasting legacy.

Have a great day.
The Upbeat Dad