Saturday, February 19, 2011

Welcome New Countries - February 19, 2011


We'd like to welcome the following countries that have joined our growing list of readers over the past week: Aruba, Bahrain, Belarus, Belize, Bonaire, Curacao, Estonia, Saba, Saint Eustatius, Saint Maarten!

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

Friday, February 18, 2011

Special Edition: Upbeat Dad Community Forum Recap!

Rodrick Walters welcoming guests to the event

On Fridays we generally do our Upbeat Dad of the Week feature. This week we’re doing a special post on our Inaugural Upbeat Dad Community forum which was held last week Thursday in Cooper City, Florida – just outside of Miami. Our weekly feature to highlight great dads will return next Friday.
I have written a couple of posts about our fourm since it was held – sharing a brief synopsis of the success that it was. Today, I’ll do a much more detailed analysis about it. I’m doing this post later than I would’ve liked because unlike the typical post that I do, this one entails gathering information from different sources – i.e. testimonials, evaluation forms, etc. Plus I wanted to make sure that in my busy 24/7 life, I did a post that did the event justice. For those who have anticipated this analysis, I hope that it was well worth the wait.
In the post, Announcing the Upbeat Dad Community Forum, I shared my vision of taking our vision to the next level. The analogy I used in that post was that the blog is like the air campaign in military combat. We’re currently over 13,000 hits and going strong with the blog. Readers from every continent are reading our messages each day. The forum and such events are more like the ground campaign. In this phase, we meet people face to face and seek to have meaningful, productive dialogue.
Rodrick and 2 of the evening's pannelists
I remember when the blog launched in October of last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as public response. Initially, I had a few hits out of courtesy from people who I know personally. Other hits were out of curiosity. The first day we had a couple dozen hits. But what’s occurred since then has been nothing short of amazing. The blog has had a meteoric rise.
Today, in a typical day, we have over 200 hits. That’s way different from the approximately 20 hits we had at the outset. At this point, I’d say that over 95% of our readers I have never met – and though I’d like to personally meet each person who ever reads our blog, it’s quite likely that most of them I will never meet. Yet, we have the connection through this blog each day.
With our forum, I think that what happened was similar to what occurred with the blog. Many came out of courtesy; others, out of curiosity. But the fact is that they came. We had a very nice turnout – especially considering this was our first event. I was very pleased with the response by the general public.
One of my basic beliefs is that if you have a quality product, sooner or later, it will be noticed. It may be later, rather than sooner, but it will be noticed. With the buzz that’s been created with the forum and feedback I’ve received, I think that we’re going to witness another meteoric rise, as more and more people will come out to our events, as we seek to touch lives in a positive way.


Presentation by Sean Colin

Our MC for the evening was Vanina Arenovich Hochman, a licensed family therapist. She welcomed the attendees and introduced the organization in a formal way. She then introduced me. I, too, welcomed the attendees. I also told our guests about the brief history that got us to the point of having the event. Specifically, I shared my personal story – the one I wrote about in The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad. Then I talked about where we have come from as an organization since October.
Then came the highlight of the evening – the panelists and the forum. We assembled an impressive array of persons to address the question Where Are Our Fathers?  Here are the bios of our panelists:
Rodrick with Elizabeth Daugherty
Sean Collin is a partner in the firm Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A.  He has practiced family law since 2004. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and received his Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Elizabeth G. Daugherty has been a family law litigation attorney in Broward County since 1994. For the past few years, she has worked primarily as a family and circuit civil mediator. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Georgia and received her Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Brentton Jones is a Senior Manager of the Guest Experience Department of the Miami Dolphins football organization. In that capacity, he is dedicated and committed to growing, enhancing, and consistently building the depth and width of the relationship between the Miami Dolphins, its’ Season Ticket and Club Members.
Anthea Pennant of Feeding South Florida
Anthea Pennant is the Director of Development for Feeding South Florida. She has the task of managing fundraising and community relations for Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. She holds a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (suma cum laude) from Florida International  University. She is a former parole officer.
Each panelist gave an overview of their background and the work that they do presently. The good thing is that each of them has a unique perspective on fatherhood but they all agree on one thing - kids need a present, active father in their lives.
Sean Collin spoke of the journey that led him to become a family attorney. A married father himself, he shared his experience as an attorney about how many fathers become introduced to the family law system in the least favorable circumstances. Some, as a result of relationships gone bad; others, as a result of domestic violence injunctions.  He sees his role as part attorney, part counselor, because both men and women, as they deal with family law issues, are typically in an emotionally fragile state.
 Elizabeth Daughterty shared of the challenges that some men have faced in the legal system – to the extent that they give up and walk away from their kids. She and I have a particularly good relationship. She represented me several years ago as I had some post divorce legal issues that needed to be addressed. It was quite interesting seeing her in this capacity, considering I was a father who reached out to her in a time of need. She shared the fact that the laws in Florida have changed significantly in the past couple years - changes are more favorable for fathers. It was based on her presentation that I wrote Post Divorce Parenting: Visitation vs. Time-Sharing.
Brentton Jones of the Miami Dolphins
Brentton Jones told of the journey that led him to become a Senior Manager with the Miami Dolphins football organization. He gave credit for his success to his parents and the positive, supportive environment that they created in the home. His parents reside in New Jersey but his mother was visiting Florida so she and his sister (who lives in Florida) were also present. He shared how his father instilled in him the mindset that he is always interviewing so he should always be his best in everything that he does. He also shared how, as the head of the Guest Experience department, he gets to see the emotional connection that dads have with their kids when they go to games or other Miami Dolphins activities. Both the young and old speak of the special time that they have with their fathers at those events.
Anthea Pennant spoke of her background in criminal justice. A former parole officer, she shared that in the vast majority of cases that she dealt with, there was a common thread – the absence of a father. A divorced/single mother herself, she spoke of the challenges of having an uninvolved former spouse in the lives of her children. In her present work, as manager of fundraising and community relations for Feeding South Florida, she sees that the individuals that her charity serves are typically single mothers who do not have the support of the father of their children.
Guest expressing his view on the subject at hand
The discussion was quite interactive. Attendees shared their unique perspectives on the subject Where Are Our Fathers. The panelists and attendees were engaged in what I believe was productive dialogue. I think that the most touching moment of the forum was when a gentleman – likely in his late 40s or early 50s – shared how he never heard his father say to him, “I love you.” He went his entire life without hearing those words. When his father was dying, as he went to see him in the hospital, finally, he heard the words that he waited a lifetime to hear, “Son, never forget that I love you.” Then he passed away. That testimony brought tears to a few eyes, including mine.
The event was extraordinary. We will be posting video clips soon so that you can witness for yourself just what a time it was that evening. The only thing that I believe we will do differently for the next event is allot even more time for the interaction between the attendees and panelists because when people’s voices are heard and their issues are addressed, it makes the event more meaningful and personal for each individual.
The Upbeat Dad support crew
We will certainly do it again – and again and again! That was a consistent theme on the evaluation forms – people love the message and the vision of what we’re doing so they want us to have more forums. That’s what I like to hear! We’ve struck a chord and the message is catching on – both online and in person.
I call the Upbeat Dad a revolution – a global movement that seeks to impact families in a positive way as we try to get men and women to recognize the very real need that kids have for actively involved fathers.
Our next event will be in the spring, here in South Florida. Stay tuned for that. Also, I promised that we will take the show on the road – and that we certainly will do. I have been developing contacts around the world – throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa. And the need for what we’re doing is very real. As I said in my interview with BBC radio 2 weeks ago, “I don’t want to keep the message here in the US; it is for the world.”
Thanks for being engaged with us. We’re on a pace to surpass 15,000 hits on the blog and 900 followers on Twitter by the end of February. And as I always say, the numbers are not numbers to me – they represent lives that we can touch in a meaningful and profound way.
Continue to share this positive message with others. I strongly believe that together, we can impact the world for generations to come.
Rodrick Walters with Brentton Jones after the event

Enjoy your day today and every day.

The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Call to Serve Others


Today’s post is a brief one. It’s a note about teaching our kids to live lives dedicated to service to their fellow men. Earlier this week, I wrote a post entitled Helping Your Kids to Discover and Develop Their Talents. As they develop their talents, they should also develop the mindset that their gifts are not given to them only for their use; but rather, they ought to be used to serve others.

They may not know just what they will become in life but whatever it is that they do become, they should think of how others stand to benefit. The more they serve others, the greater meaning their lives will have. As they serve, perhaps they will become rich. Perhaps they won’t. The key to it all is that they learn to serve.
My poem How Can I Serve Humanity?  was written with this thought in mind. It is written from the perspective of a child who looks at the great names throughout history and wonders how (s)he can be of service. Enjoy reading it:

By Rodrick Walters

Beethoven could write a great symphony.
Sinatra could sing a great melody.
Shakespeare could write a great tragedy,
but nothing great was ever found in me.

In my childhood I read of the great JFK—
how he led our fair nation and showed us the way.
And then I heard of the great MLK
whose dream is still living, even today.

The legend of Florence Nightingale
was not a made-up fairy tale.
Mother Theresa’s compassion prevailed;
and who could forget the Princess of Wales?

Well, how can I serve humanity?
What shall be my legacy?
What greatness could possibly be hiding in me,
that’ll ring on through the hallways of eternity?

Tho’ my name might not be written in lights
and I might not be onstage with all the spotlights,
in my own humble way I’ll serve life with delight,
as I give all I have by day and by night.

The fame and the fortune don’t matter to me—
just the service I offer to humanity.
Like great men and great women throughout history,
may my work live for ages, long after me.

The key to living a meaningful, successful life is being determined to live a life of service. The fame and the fortune are really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things; it’s really about how effective you are as you serve others.

Let’s teach our kids these principles. You may have heard it said, “It is better to give than to receive.” That’s not simply about giving our financial resources; it’s about giving of our time and talents toward the benefit of others.

Think on these thoughts and help your kids to develop the mindset of service.

Have a great day.



The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Post-Divorce Parenting: Visitation vs Time-Sharing


Well, well, well, it seems that things and times are changing afterall. And it’s a change for the better, I believe. What am I talking about? Well, today’s post is about the concept of visitation versus time-sharing. It’s a concept that I’ve long thought about based on my own experience and I’m so glad to know that the courts – at least here in Florida – are finally coming around to the concept that I’ve spoken about for such a long time.

Last week I was speaking with a family law attorney who shared with me that in Florida, legally, the term “visitation” is no longer used when speaking of the time that a child spends with a parent after a divorce. The term “time-sharing” is now used. In other words, a child no longer visits his/her parent – instead (s)he spends time. To some readers, this may not seem like much but if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’d know that I’m a big advocate for the time-sharing concept.

Like I shared in my post The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad, I went through a divorce in the early 2000s. That legal process awakened me to the reality that many families face each day as husbands and wives fall out of love and into the family law system. It was a big eye opener indeed. There were a series of things that bothered me but the most significant of them was the term visitation. I even wrote the post From Father to Visitor about the process.

When my daughter was conceived, I was as happy as a lark. I knew of the impending responsibility to take care of her so, in a sense, I was scared that a life was going to be entrusted to my former wife and me. I didn’t know if we were really ready for all that it would take to raise a child. But I was still excited nonetheless to think that I was going to be a father. Something about that thought brought  a sense of pride to me.

My former wife and I have shared the responsibility for our daughter’s care – from even before she was born. I never missed a doctor’s appointment throughout the pregnancy. I was in the delivery room when she was born (I joke with her today that I’m the first face she saw when she was born because I was standing right there as she made her first earthly appearance). I was there every step of the way after her birth – taking her to the pediatrician, the day care, to birthday parties and just everything that a loving parent should do. We were both involved - none more than the other.

So when the marriage ended, I really had a problem with the legal term “visitation.” How did I, almost overnight, go from being “daddy” to “visitor”? I think that that term suggested that I was a 2nd tier parent – she lives with her mother and visits me. A typical dad who went through a divorce at that time would be happy to just get the standard “every other weekend” and he’s good to go – no need for anything further. That just didn’t seem right to me, especially considering that I’ve always been close with my daughter.

I could not take on the court system by myself so I was determined to help as many people as possible before they even got to that phase. I was on a campaign to save marriages and other relationships so that people would avoid the harsh realities of the family law system. I feel for kids who really have no voice in the way the process is carried out; they just have to deal with the outcome.
The attorney who I referenced earlier told me that in Florida, time-sharing is now the rule of law – no longer visitation. In addition, the courts now try to work out a 50/50 schedule – no longer one parent being the primary custodial parent while the other gets “visits” from their kids. That’s the point that I have been making all along. I’m just happy to see that the courts came to the conclusion that the time-sharing concept is better. I really believe that kids are better for it.
Today, my daughter lives with my new wife, our son and me. When she is with me, she’s at home. When she’s with her mom, my former wife, she’s also at home. She has two homes where she is loved and cherished. That’s the message that we ought to send our kids.
Several years ago, as I reflected on this entire transitional period that I went through, I wrote the following poem:
Visitation
By Rodrick Walters

I was there when the doctor told us
That we were having a girl
Our parents were right there to hold us
We were so on top of the world;

I was right there for your christening
I was holding my bundle of joy
The preacher said, “Look, do you see him?
He’s smiling like a little boy;"

I was there when you started the first grade
You made me the proudest of dads
I really thought I had it made
Didn’t know things would turn out so bad;

Now the marriage I lived for is over
We’ve started new lives on our own
Now I struggle as I try to recover
‘Cause you live all the way across town;


I’m your father, not a visitor
This feeling is so new to me
I want to see you grow older
To be what a father should be;

I just don’t know ‘bout this system
Didn’t know it was really this bad
I don’t want you to be a victim
I just want to be your dad;

Yet I still hope for tomorrow
I know better days lie ahead
But for now I mask this sorrow
Some words are better left unsaid

My dear, I will leave you never
So you don’t have to be sad
This tie no one can sever
I’m always, forever, your dad.

Those words were written from the heart back then. Looking at it now, I smile because things have worked out just fine. And my daughter is doing great.

 If you’re a parent and somehow you find yourself in the position that I was in so long ago, just know that your kids are always your kids. I don’t know if the law in your jurisdiction uses the term “visitation” or not. I do know that if you treasure your kids as you should, nothing can change the fact that your kids are yours and you have a great responsibility for them. Visitation, to me, is when they go to visit their grandparents or other relatives. When they are with you, they are at home – even if you and the other parent don't live together.
I hope that this post has been an encouragement to you, particularly if you’re a parent who’s learning how to live without your kids in the home all the time. Just give them your love always and sooner or later, it will all work itself out. You can raise well-adjusted, successful kids even while parenting apart.
Enjoy yourself today.


The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Helping Your Kids to Discover and Develop Their Talents



Every day, children all over the world go to school to get an education. From a young stage, they learn their ABCs and 123s. As they get older their learning becomes more advanced but learning is learning just the same. With today’s post, I’d like to focus on another aspect of their education – the lessons that they can’t be taught in a classroom. It’s about learning about their unique talents.

There’s a proverb that I have lived by since mid-way through college in the early 90s. It has literally changed my life. It says simply, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” How could those simple words change someone’s life? Well, that’s what I’d like to share with you today.
Each person is born with innate gifts and talents. Our kids, as small as they may be, are talented beyond what many of us may think. When those skills are developed, they can help them to live the great lives that they deserve to live. I’m not only just saying this – it’s part of my own experience. Here’s the story:
As a child growing up, I really didn’t think I’d turn out to be anything much in life. I wasn’t the brightest student by any means. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t popular. I had a speech impediment that caused me to stutter. These were just some of the issues that caused me to develop low self-esteem and self-worth. My thought was that if only I could stay young forever, I’d never have to grow up and take on the responsibility of having a job or taking care of a family because, in my mind, I’d fail at those tasks too.
In the early 90s, when I studied at the University of Texas at Austin, I had my fair share of struggles. I was actually on the verge of being put on academic probation or being academically dismissed from the University. It was around that time that I came across the proverb. It sounds pretty simple right? How could the words “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men” change someone’s life? Well, I lived it and it was real to me.
I learned that I was born with skills and talents. If only I could develop them, there’s nothing I couldn’t accomplish. And I didn’t need to worry about what people thought of me. My skills could create a place in the world for me where I could be the best that I could be. Pretty much since then, over 20 years later, I’ve been on this path of self-discovery. I no longer daydreamed about being someone else and trying to imitate their styles. I learned to be happy with just who I am and work on my own skills.
What I found on this journey of self-discovery was that I have a heart to help people. I love to see people learn the lessons in life that can help them to become better and more effective. The lessons that I’ve learned in this process have been amazing. And the best thing about it all is that I am at my best when others’ lives are enhanced; otherwise, my efforts are futile.
Here is my advice to parents on teaching your kids to discover and develop their talents: get to know the things that interest them. Those interests may be sports, or music. Maybe they love reading. Whatever it may be that they love, encourage them to go further.
I believe strongly that each of our kids can be good at many things. But there are some things at which they are exceptional. You may not know just what those areas may be but , believe me, they exist. The important thing to note is that, with confidence and self-esteem, your kids can become empowered to do what might seem impossible. The more you encourage them, the better they feel about themselves. And the better they feel about themselves, the more they accept who they are. And the more they accept who they are, the easier it is for their innate skills to shine through.
Another thing to note is that they should love and accept themselves as they are. They may not be perfect but if they accept themselves, they develop from within. Too many kids look up to athletes and entertainers so much that they live vicariously through these so-called heroes and never look at their own talents. Am I saying they shouldn’t admire these figures? Certainly not. But I know of too many kids who idolize others to the extent that they never learn about the good in themselves – they’re too focused on others.
I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Do share the thoughts with your kids. I believe that they will be better as a result. Whether you have teens or younger kids, just know that each of them is born with innate gifts and talents. And, when discovered and developed, they will make room for them and bring them before great men.
Our kids are gems that were made to shine. Let’s give them the tools to shine brightly.

Have a great day.

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day Wishes!


Valentine’s Day is upon us again. Lovers all over the world pause to share special thoughts and words on this special day. Whether it’s with a box of chocolates or flowers or something else, love is being expressed in various ways today. How wonderful it is when the one you love loves you back. It really does make life worth living doesn’t it?

There’s an expression that says, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” Having loved and lost a time or two in my life, I can say that that statement is probably true. But it’s even better when you love and keep the love instead of losing it.
In my wife, I really believe that I’ve found the love of a lifetime. She’s a love I’ve found even though I wasn’t even looking for her but as I explained in the post The Story of My Blended Family, we found each other and this is a love affair that I just know will stand the test of time.
As I think on all that’s special about Valentine’s Day, I must also pause and think about those who have loved and lost, especially when there are kids involved. Valentine’s Day probably conjures up some emotions that are hard to explain. Many have to see the various advertisements on TV about the day set aside for lovers while they themselves nurse their broken hearts. That’s not easy by any means.
I have heard an expression that says, “The one who loves feels the pain.” Isn’t that true? When your heart is vested in a relationship and it ends, it makes it so tough to deal with. When you’ve checked out mentally and emotionally, the ending of a relationship isn’t quite as harsh. Only when your heart is into it do you really suffer pain.
If you count yourself among those that are hurting during this time of the year set aside for lovers, don’t worry. Life gets better in time. Sometimes you have to experience a bit of turbulence in relationships in order to appreciate the special one that awaits you.
I have shared in many posts, including The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad, that I experienced a divorce several years ago. I remember I even had a divorce court hearing on Valentine’s Day – how painful is that? Yep, it was like torture to me. What a cruel joke it seemed – only thing, it was no laughing matter.
But you know what, I reflect on those days with a smile because here I am today, married to the woman of my dreams. And I have two wonderful kids – a 12 year old from my first marriage and a 6 month old from my new marriage. My wife is my heart and my all. I didn’t like the negative experience that I went through so long ago but had I not gone through it, I don’t think I’d quite appreciate her the way that I do now.
One of the things that I said before I met my wife was that whoever I was to get married to, I hope that she experienced a disappointing relationship before so that she would cherish and adore our relationship. And that’s certainly what’s occurred. My wife was never previously married but she’s had a disappointment or two with past relationships.
When we got together, I think that each of us was ready to work at it to ensure that we never hurt each other and cause each other pain. We both know what it’s like to deal with the after-effects of relationships gone bad so we’ve been determined never to walk down that road.
Do we have the perfect marriage? Are we living a fairy tale “happily ever after” life? I wouldn’t say that. However, we’re both convinced that in each other, we have found our soulmate – the one we’re destined to walk through life with. So though neither of us is perfect, I think that we’re the perfect match for each other.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day, enjoy every moment of it. You deserve joy and happiness in every way. Life is not all a bed of roses so if you’ve found that special someone, treasure him or her today. Have a blessed and wonderful time sharing your love with one another.
And if you’re not in a relationship at this point, just celebrate life and the gift that it is. You can be happy and enjoy the good that there is in this life without being in love with someone. Be in love with yourself and celebrate you. Heck, take yourself to the movies! Get yourself flowers and treat yourself like royalty.
I remember before I met my wife, sometimes I’d treat myself to a special date. I went to dinner and then to the movies alone. It’s not that I had no one who I could go with – I just chose to go solo. I just absolutely loved every moment of that time with myself. I had a great time and just enjoyed my company. That was such a thrill!
So if you have no one special in your life, celebrate you and who you are and treat yourself special this day. You deserve it.
Regardless of your present circumstance, enjoy your day today. Celebrate and embrace the gift of life. Happy Valentine’s Day! And may your Valentine’s dreams come true.

The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections on the Upbeat Dad Community Forum

We are now a few days removed from our inaugural Upbeat Dad Community Forum. It was certainly a wonderful event. This is just a brief post to share with you some thoughts and reflections based on the feedback I’ve received from others who were at the event.
I made a few phone calls thanking participants for coming. I also read through the evaluation forms. I’m quite pleased that our mission was accomplished. The feedback we’ve received has been extremely positive. It was our inaugural event – the first of many such events that we will have. I believe it was Rod Stewart who sang the song “The First Cut is the Deepest.” There’s nothing quite like the first time doing something. This one was quite memorable.
Be sure to read the post this coming Friday. I will do a much more detailed post on the event and where we go from here. You'll see pictures and you'll get a detailed analysis of the special time that we had.
For now, I just wanted to chime in to say we had a great time and we look forward to doing many more in the coming months and years. We’re on to something big – it’s a movement that’s way bigger than any person. It’s all about our families – a positive message for all.
Enjoy this coming week. And come back to our blog often. There’s always something new.
The Upbeat Dad