Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Night Fever!

Hi there,

Just chiming in before bed this evening. Today's been a long but productive day. I went to a prayer breakfast at my church. It was a good getaway from my normal routine to recharge my battery. Great time it was but now I'm exhausted.

Do you remember the movie Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John? It's an older movie from the '70s but no doubt it's a pop culture iconic film.

Saturday Night Fever is a different kinda fever for me these days. As I type this, it's 11 pm here on the East Coast.. It doesn't seem too long ago that 11 pm was the time to leave home for the night's activities. Late night partying used to be the order of the day for me years ago but then reality and responsibility set in. Now my "fever" is all about excitement for being with my family. I can't imagine where I'd rather be than at home with them and enjoying their company.

As life goes on our interests and desires change. Perhaps you can relate to this. Home is really where the heart is. Unfortunately, many dads never really make the transition from the party, club-hopping life to the life of fatherhood and the responsibility of taking care of a family. So their kids suffer while they try to find themselves.

How about you? Have you made a smooth transition to parenthood - accepting the responsibilities and obligations that come with it? Or are you ok with living a carefree life while others raise your children? I trust that wherever you find yourself at this point, you would recognize that with kids comes the responsibility to shape and mold their lives.

Going out and having fun is great - even I do that at this point. But it should all be put in perspective. Sometimes I travel. Other times I may work late or have networking or other events that keep me away from home. But I yearn to be with my wife and kids so as I'm able to, I try to get home so that we can continue to build our lives together.

I would hate to think that my kids grow up but because I refused to do the same, I missed the different milestones in their development. You can never recapture those formative years so it's important to make the most of each stage of our children's development.

Well, it's off to bed now. I'm sure our newborn will get my wife and me up at some point in the next couple hours. If I'm going to be sleep deprived, I'd much rather have it this way - being there for my kids than having myself a ball and missing out on the precious moments that come with raising them.

Enjoy the rest of the day/night. And may you enjoy your fever!

The Upbeat Dad

Lock and Reload!

This morning I'm going to a men's prayer breakfast at my church. Haven't been to one in quite some time so I'm really looking forward to it!

We can be so overwhelmed and inundated with work and life that we often forget to recharge our batteries. So my mindset going to this event this morning is "lock and reload."

I know as a husband of a wonderful wife and father of two gorgeous children - a 12 year old daughter and newborn son - I have a great responsibility. And sometimes I do become exhausted in trying to deal with work/career issues and my family.

How tragic it would be if I gain great wealth and the lifestyle that comes with it and neglect the ones who would still love me even if I was penniless. That's why I want to be the best for my family - for they shower me with unconditional love.

As you may know, I was previously married. That relationship ended in the early 2000s. I just remember the disappointment and trauma that ensued. Anyone who has gone through a divorce will tell you - regardless of what happens, divorce is never easy, particularly when there are kids involved.

Today I have another chance at love - the chance of a lifetime. So whatever it takes to make my new family the best it can be, I'm there for it!

Do I want to get up early on a Saturday morning, after waking up early for work this entire week? Not exactly. But I'm going to recharge my batteries to refocus on the things that will make me most effective as a man - in both my professional and personal life.

What about you? How do you reload? Whether it's at church or another religious setting, or a conference, I encourage you to take time out to recharge your batteries. Even a high performance luxury car needs periodic maintenance; how much more a high performance "upbeat" dad!

So make plans to lock and reload! And may the rest of your day be the best of your day!

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inaugural Upbeat Dad of the Week Spotlight!

Part of the mission of The Upbeat Dad is to highlight men who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be super dads. In carrying out this mission, each Friday we will highlight an individual deserving of being recognized as Upbeat Dad of the Week.

The criteria for this recognition is that these individuals must do something special that helps to shape and mold the lives of their kids and others in their sphere of influence. With that said, as I think of those who have positively impacted my life, I can think of no person more deserving of the inaugural Upbeat Dad of the Week feature than my dad, Mr. T.P. Walters.
This year, my parents celebrated 46 years of marriage – a milestone that is almost beyond comprehension in our society these days. They both have been mentors to my siblings and me in so many ways. And our lives are so much better as a result.
My father, T.P. Walters is the product of a single parent home. His mom and siblings lived in a small house in the rural part of Jamaica. His mother was a seamstress with a 9th grade education. They didn’t have much money but they had love.
My dad and his siblings would wake up before school to work the fields – planting and reaping crops and taking care of their animals – goats and pigs. After school, they repeated their morning chores. With these humble beginnings, they learned the lesson that hard work was the key to getting ahead in life.

After he graduated from the school in his local community, he left home to pursue higher education. He worked while going through school, always sending money home to ensure his mother was well taken care of. Upon graduating from college, he returned to his small community to become principal at the school where he was educated. He met and married my mom shortly thereafter.
Let me pause at this point and ask the question: Why does this make him an upbeat dad? So many others have a similar story to share. Well, as Paul Harvey would say, here is “the rest of the story:”

As the school principal, he quickly became a father figure and mentor to many. He knew of the challenges that parents faced in raising kids, particularly kids from single parent households. He and my mom were biological parents of four children - my 3 siblings and me. However, they were parents to many more.
He was a trusted figure in the community – both in church and school. I do not recall one moment when it was just our family of 6 living in the home. There were always other young people – children of family members or friends – who lived with us. My parents were entrusted with the task of educating and raising other people’s children so that they would become responsible citizens. They loved each one, as if they were their own.
Our family migrated to the United States almost 30 years ago but still today people speak of the work both my parents did. There are people in our old community who view my father with such reverence because of how he helped to shape and mold their lives and those of their children. There are places in Jamaica that I could visit today and get the royal treatment, simply by saying, “I’m Teacher Walters’ son.” His influence has literally impacted a generation.

I have learned so much from my father. I will highlight a few of these lessons here:
  • It is better to give than to receive. He has given selflessly to help others to accomplish their life goals. It wasn’t an inconvenience for him to teach others the lessons that have guided his life – rather it was a responsibility.
  • Be involved in the community. Each of us has the responsibility to “brighten the corners where we are.” With community involvement, we help to create synergy that enriches our communities.
  • Education is key.  With education you can accomplish everything you desire. He taught us the famous quote: “"Labor for learning before you grow old, for learning is better than silver and gold. Silver and gold will vanish away, but a good education will never decay."
  • Respect for authority. As a school principal and the head of our home, he was a strict disciplinarian. He wasn’t mean-spirited by any means. He just emphasized the importance of us respecting the authorities placed over us - in the home, school and in the world-at-large.
  • Love for family. The cornerstone of life is the family structure. Studies repeatedly show that closely knit two-parent households produce well-adjusted, responsible citizens. My siblings and I all have advanced degrees and are successful in our own endeavors. We have accomplished many good things, which we all attribute to the environment in which we grew up.

If you would like to nominate your dad, your granddad, your husband, friend or relative for this feature, please do so by emailing us at: Tell us of the person’s story and the exceptional qualities that make him an upbeat dad.
Have a great weekend! And always be upbeat for your kids!

The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Veterans Day Salute!

On this Veterans Day, we pause to salute the great men and women who have defended our great nation by serving in the armed forces. We thank each of you for your service. We are so much better for it!
I want to give special acknowledgment to the “upbeat dads” who are currently deployed in Afghanistan and other places around the world. Being away from their families to defend freedom is such a great sacrifice. As we all know, many do not even make it home to the open arms of their loved ones. That is, indeed the supreme sacrifice. We salute each military family for giving so that our fellow citizens can live and be free.
I dedicate the following poem, Freedom is the Cry of Every Man, to our brave military personnel on this Veterans Day. It’s from my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self-Motivation. You have fought to defend our freedom, the primary tenet on which our nation was founded. We often take this freedom for granted – especially when many of us have never experienced the oppression that many in our world do, even in this day and age.
Freedom Is the Cry of Every Man

Freedom is the cry of every man—
a foundation on which to stand.
Freedom to think, to imagine, to be;
freedom brings dreams to reality.

How can the bird fly unless it’s free?
Or dreams take flight without eyes to see?
The eyes of the wise are the ones we should cherish,
for when there's no vision, we surely will perish.

A free mind can make a pauper a king
when it discovers the potential deep within.
It marches to the sound of its own unique beat,
and helps make the life of a dreamer complete.

All men should have the liberty
to live their dreams – whatever they may be.
For every man deserves the right
to soar like an eagle to higher heights.

I encourage each reader today to pay a visit, make a phone call, send an email or post a social media message thanking our veterans for their service. It is a noble calling to defend a nation so we pause today and say thanks.
To our veterans, we thank you for your service. May this Veterans Day remind you how much your labor is appreciated.
Happy Veterans Day,
The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Parenting After Divorce

Today I’d like to address the issue of parenting after divorce. Contrary to the fact that approximately 50% of married couples will divorce, I don’t believe that people get married in order to end up in a divorce court. Couples generally have a dream about living “happily ever after.” They have kids and want to have the perfect family.

Then comes reality! Life becomes life! And for different reasons, couples decide to go their separate ways. I don’t like the fact that it’s so easy to get married with all that’s at stake. The consequences of a divorce can be so great that sometimes many people wish they were told about the reality of marriage before saying “I do.” Divorces often cost thousands more than the weddings ever did.
When couples divorce, division of assets is one of the normal procedures. But the kids, products of the marriages, aren’t so easy to divide. Those ties are for a lifetime so in a sense, the marriages are over but there’s a perpetual connection through the kids.
When I went through my divorce in the early 2000s, I had a 3 year old daughter and this reality hit me. How do we go from living together with a child to living apart with a child? The emotions of that transition can be traumatic in very many circumstances. People go into depression as a result of such situations.
There are books written on this subject so I could really write a long dissertation today but I won’t. I’ll just give some pointers on what worked for me. Here they are:
  • Remember that though the marriage is over, your role as a parent never changes. It’s literally the role of a lifetime. The living arrangements might change but you’re a parent forever.
  • No matter how bitter the divorce proceedings might become, never speak negative of your spouse/former spouse in the presence of the kids. I’ve been told that this often backfires because the kids end up resenting the one who speaks negative of the other parent.
  • If your kids no longer live with you primarily, continue to make them feel special. When they’re away from you, keep in contact with them daily. Let them know that you’re still there for them. When they’re with you, do something memorable with them. That way they look forward to time spent with you.
  • As much as it lies with you, try to live at peace with your former spouse. It's ultimately easier for all parties. You don't want a court ourder to govern absolutely everything you do. Life happens! So, if somehow you were supposed to have the kids for Thanksgiving but a situation arises that might change that, just go with the flow and try to work it out with your former spouse. You'll find that after a while, you and your former spouse simply have a partnership - to raise children. And just as in any other partnership, cooperation is the key to make it work.
I’ll leave it at that for now. There’s much more to it but those are tips from my experience. And I can tell you that they work. Professionals also support this approach.

If you are going through a divorce or if you’ve gone through one with kids involved, I hope that these tips are an encouragement to you. Life goes on and it gets better. Someone told me as I was faced with my situation “time heals all wounds.” And believe me, it does. My daughter is now a well-adjusted 12 year old. And my former wife and I have a positive working relationship in which we both work for our daughter’s best interest. I’m remarried with a newborn son and our blended family is getting on just fine.

So keep your head up and keep on going. You might have heard this expression before but let me share it here:  when life hands you lemons, add sugar and water and make lemonade!

Drink up, my friend! Drink up! Life goes on!
The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Your Kids Are Not Stupid!

For most kids, the school year is well underway. And for many report cards have either been just released or will be released soon. Some of us parents nervously await the 'verdict' as we look to see how well our children are doing in school.

My daughter is now in the 7th grade and is doing quite well. She's very intelligent, articulate and really a wonderful child. But I recall when she was just settling down in elementary school, her grades caused me many a sleepless night.

As bright as she is, for quite some time, that was not reflected in her grades. And that caused me a great deal of concern. As far as I was concerned, I had a straight A student but somehow an impostor took over and was producing unacceptable grades.

At this point, let me pause and ask you - what do you do when your child struggles? Do you throw up your hands and say "Forget it"? Do you say, "Oh, well - some have what it takes and others don't."

At that time I was a single dad raising a 9 year old. I had recently started my own business so time was at a premium. It wasn't the most convenient of things to begin working with her to improve her grades.

But there she was - a young, impressionable, intelligent child with her entire life ahead of her. She needed the loving guidance of one who saw the very best in her. She didn't need to hear judgmental words like "What are you? An idiot?" Or "How stupid can you be? You're not gonna amount to anything."

You know how many kids hear those kind of words from their parents? Those same kids internalize the words and literally become the manifestation of those damaging words.

I thought about how my parents encouraged me when I had my own struggles in school. I was determined to be there for her as they were for me.

I scheduled conferences with her teachers to find out their perspective. I hired a tutor to get her going in the right direction. And more than anything, I began speaking words of encouragement to her - words like "I don't care what your report card says now, you're a straight A student", "You're gonna do great things in life" and "You're the best there's ever been."

And would you believe that those words have changed her life? Now her approach in school is so much different. And it's reflected in her good grades. Her self-confidence is so much greater. She now speaks of the career she'd like to pursue, knowing it is possible with hard work.

Sometimes as parents we send our kids to school and think that it's the school's job to educate them. On the contrary, the school is just a formal setting where much of the education takes place but it's our job as parents to provide the kind of environment where they can learn.

Our words have more power than we might know. We can build up or tear down our precious children by simply opening our mouths.

If your children should struggle to any degree, it's ok to be frustrated. But try not to use negative words like "stupid" or "idiot". Sow seeds of excellence into them. If you don't see the best in them, then who will?

Tell them they will accomplish great things - even if you're having a hard time believing it. Sooner, rather than later, you will believe it and so will they.

Our children are the future. Let's feed them with words of encouragement as they seek to live their dreams. They'll  be the better for it.

The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time to take A-C-T-I-O-N!

Are you ready for the coming week? Sure hope so! Today’s post is a quick jolt in the arm to help us take action as we work on our goals and dreams. After all, we are building a legacy for our families and for ourselves!
I hope that the following poem from my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self-Motivation helps you focus on the tasks that lie ahead.
Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses
Consider the limitless possibilities of what you may accomplish
Take small steps daily toward realizing your dreams
Inspire others to join you on your journey
Obey your instincts and work relentlessly
Nurture your dream until it becomes reality
You’re a winner! So go out and make it a great week – for you and yours!
The Upbeat Dad