An Uncommen Blog

Pitch Perfect Day

Most dads receiving this blog post have a lot to do and don’t have time to read. Thanksgiving is only a few days away and you’re likely thinking about wrapping up work for the week, getting the family ready for a visit somewhere, and which teams are playing on Turkey Day. So if you’ve tuned me out, I get it. To those dads, I say Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family time.

Now to the dads that are still extremely busy, but can spare 5 more minutes to read a cool baseball story. Allow me to paint the scenario… The weather in Upstate New York was amazing for Halloween Day. It was 11 am. and nearly sixty degrees. The sky was blue, the grass was still green, and the colors of fall speckled the trees. It was a pitch perfect day for Trick or Treating and… one more game of wiffleball.

There’s two outs in the bottom of the third. The Royals trail the Dodgers 10 – 8 in the decisive and final inning of Game 7 in the D-K Wiffle Ball World Series. The previous 6 games were battles, a roller coaster of emotion for both Dad and Kenny. But it could all come down to this. The Royals have a gift runner (Dad) on first base after a fielding error on the second basemen (Kenny). But the Dodgers’ closer (Kenny again) is pitching lights out. As the closer searches for the right grip, let’s reflect on the past 25 days.

The whole thing started after the MLB playoff brackets were announced. For the fifth consecutive year, Dad and Kenny would play every game until a victor was proclaimed. The format was single-elimination for the wild card and divisional rounds, a best of three for the championship series, and a traditional best of seven for the World Series. 17 games were already in the books and the 2015 match up had Dad’s Kansas City Royals against Kenny’s Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kenny, the Dodger closer, stares down the potential tying run as he grips the wiffleball, holes away from the batter. It will be another curve ball, attempting to paint the outside corner of the plate. The wind up… the pitch… Dad swings. Crack! The ball shoots down the first base line, but Kenny was quick off the mound. He fields it and touches first base just ahead of the charging Royals runner (that’s Dad again). Out number three. Ball game over. Series over. An eruption of emotion and jubilation fills the field. Dad hoists his 10-year-old son up in the air and hugs him. “You did it! You won… again!” For the fifth consecutive year, Kenny is crowned champion.

This is Dadnamics, or the infusion of creativity, adventure, and silliness into Dad-Time. The D-K Wiffleball World Series is merely one more example of how this Dad operates. But why? The greater the risk, the greater the reward. How can we, as Dads, capture more memories in the time we are able to spend with our kids? It’s not a lecture of quality time vs. quantity time. Both are vital. But we are all stressed for time as dads, so here’s the challenge. Why not seize an opportunity this Thanksgiving weekend? It won’t take much. Just crank up the Dadnamics dial of creativity, adventure, and silliness and create a memory. I promise you that it will be worth the risk. Not only will you have a blast, but your son or daughter will never forget.

And that’s a good thing.

Bible Reference: 2 Chronicles 5:13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud,

Written by UNCOMMEN contributor, Ken Carfagno. To learn more about Dadnamics, visit www.dadnamics.com.

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UNCOMMEN Husbands Sustain

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Public speaking isn’t for everyone. It’s one thing to speak, quite another to communicate. There was the guy teaching a bunch of guys on how to “love their wives.” Unfortunately he compared a husband’s love for his wife to a nursing mother – that guys should “provide sustenance to” their wives like a mom feeding her baby. Try to get that picture out of your head.

While the guys may have cringed, he’s got a point. When my wife ‘sustained’ our children, I don’t ever remember a time when I asked her, “Honey, when was the last time you fed the baby?” and she responded, “Oh, I don’t know, it’s been a few days.”

Instinctively a mom knows her baby’s sustenance has to be consistent, catered to their tastes, and is crucial for their survival. Ask yourself a few questions:

Is your love consistent? I don’t know about you, but I rarely miss a meal. Unless I’m fasting (for a very short time!), about every 4-5 hours I feed the beast. It’s all too common for our wives to go months between meals: a date night, taking a walk, go on an adventure, a simple text saying, “are you tired? You should be because you’ve been running through my mind all day long,” or a well thought out letter. Sustenance is ongoing.

Is your love catered to her tastes? You’re not going to catch me at the all you can eat tofu bar. Unless I’m in a foreign country or on an diet challenge, I generally sustain my body with stuff I like. It’s common to give love the way we want to receive love. But your love language probably doesn’t match hers. Want to know if you are catering to her “love” taste buds, ask this UNCOMMEN question: “Honey, do you feel the depth of my love? Not do you know it, but do you feel it? If not, how can I sustain your soul?”

Do you realize your love is crucial to her survival? It’s no secret many women feel malnourished by their husbands. Their closets may be stuffed with clothes and pantry stocked with food, but their souls are famished for attention and craving emotional sustenance from the one who promised to love them until “death do us part.”

Like a baby craves milk, every woman wants to be wanted by her husband.

Be UNCOMMEN.

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The Power (and destruction) of Angry Words

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I get to approach this conversation from two perspectives. The first is that I have been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and personal development coach for the last 10 years.  I have worked with hundreds of men on the topic of anger and how to handle those moments of frustration as well as explore the underlying triggers of anger in their lives. In doing that work I have discovered many great tools that effectively help my clients manage their anger.

The second perspective which I approach conversation is more personal and powerful I think. My wife and I have been married for 18 years and we have four kids between the ages of 10 and 6. I’d love to say that I’ve mastered this aspect of my life and that I never allow frustration to seep out but thats not true. One of my goals is to practice what I preach and to be authentic in who I am and how I present healthy life instructions for my clients. With that, I certainly don’t pretend to be perfect, but I am committed to doing my best to live out the principles for which I encourage I clients embrace. The bottomline is, I have learned by personal trial and error.

Growing up, I had always been taught that it was wrong to be angry that it was inherently bad.  In fact, my conservative religious background gave me the impression that it is a sin be angry. Therefore, whenever I got angry, I not only felt the frustration of the situation that triggered my anger, but I also felt a religious guilt or shame that I got angry in the first place. That typically would make me just feel more frustrated or even angry at myself.

As a young adult, I came to the understanding it is inevitable that you will have strong emotions, but when you have them, do not cause harm.

It is important to be aware of how powerful these moments areThey are VERY powerful and must be treated with respect and responsibility. Our words can leave a painful and lasting impact. Our tone of voice must not be overlooked, as well as our physical posturing in these moments of frustration and anger.

If you’re a dad with young kids there is lots of research showing that there is NO lasting benefit to disciplining when we are angry. Heres a quick summary of the brain-science: the minds of our young children is much more primal or animalisticthan logical. They perceive our frustration, anger, and adrenaline as a direct threat to their existenceliterally, to their survival. In those moments of our anger, their brains are activating the flight or fight instinctual reaction. That is not the part of the brain we want to stimulate when we are correcting or disciplining our kids. In order to be effective in changing our children’s behavior it is so important to maintain a low firm calm tone of voice, to kneel down to their eye level and clearly express the desired behavioral expectation. In so doing, we allow their developing frontal lobe (the logical part of the brain) a chance to make a logical step forward.

Here are some suggestions I use in my life and coach my clients towards:

Creatively increase your margins

If you are like me or others I know, you live a very full life with no extra time or margin in the schedule. The idea of self-care or leisurely time is elusive however, very important. It would be ideal if it is possible to maintain habits such as weekly exercise routines, small community groups, or other fun activities.

As a result, we need to get creative in finding ways to create this much needed space. One space that most of us have is our drive time in the car to and from work. I am sure this is getting some chuckles because most people equate commute time to road-rage, not zen-filled mindful peacefulness. But if you are as busy as I am, you have no choice but to capture every moment that can be used for good. Be aware of what you’re doing in the car on your drive to and from work. What are you listening to? What are you thinking about? I suggest making a playlist of music that you have a positive and peaceful association with and listening to that instead of talk radio that may increase stress or anxiety.

I also coach my clients to practice a basic breathing exercise to do while driving that lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. The simple explanation, is to intentionally take about 10 long slow inhalations as if you were faking a yawn. This practice of deep breathing has an automatic physiological response in our bodies to reduce stress.

Create a daily prayer or mantra.

I had a client named Jason who was a Marine Corps vet who received a purple heart in Afghanistan. Among other things dealing with his anger was a part of the counseling goals. He daily took a commuter train to downtown Los Angeles and use that time to to create some much needed margin in his life. Every day as he rode in to work you take on this positive statement of became a prayer or mantra for him: I am a good leader, I will manage my team well, I will effectively overcome obstacles and create solutions at work today.Likewise on the ride home, it’s been a few moments thinking I am a good man, I will connect with my wife affectionately, and be present with my children joyfully tonight at home.

Don’t go at it alone

As men we need to interact with other men in healthy ways. Connecting with other men to provide accountability is imperative to minimize our negative response in moments of frustration and anger. Accountability can play out in many different ways; our close friend, an online community, a counselor, a personal development coach, or a pastor. And for some of us it may look like attending a specific group design for anger management. And that’s fine. Because we need to know that we aren’t designed to do it alone, and is wise to get support.

The chances are, if you are reading this post you are a person prone to passion and strong feelings.  That is great, be a passionate person. But remember in those strong feelingsin those impassioned emotionsdo not cause harm. Be UNCOMMEN.

 

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The Honeymoon’s Over, Real Life Has Begun

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Thanks to online streaming services, my wife and I have watched all previous 16 seasons of Law and Order SVU. Now we have to deal with the torture of waiting a week before new episodes air. We’re obviously spoiled. #firstworldproblems.

Think about it, most shows were meant to be watched once a week, drawing over an entire season. Between the other shows and commercials, we’re supposed to hold on to the storyline of a particular character lineup and setting. That’s normal. That’s what’s to be expected.  Now thanks to online services and DVR a new phenomena has occurred- binge-watching. You know the practice of closing the blinds in the morning, barely eating or sleeping, turning off the phone for a weekend just to finish your series. We do this because we have a little time off and an opportunity to indulge.

Kind of reminds me of my honeymoon.

It’s not until the blinds are opened, a shower is taken, clothes are changed, people are spoken to, work demands grow, houses become too small, babies keep us up at night, and our wives don’t want to (or can’t) close the doors to everything else, that we find ourselves in the real world. We long for the days back when she shut everyone and everything else out, and you started on the couch and ended up in the bed. Now the couch is no longer a safe place. If you sit there too long you may find yourself sleeping there, and if you try and go to bed without sleep in mind, you find yourself back on the couch channel surfing instead. Where did the honeymoon days go?

Real life is action packed indeed, it just seems we have forgotten. The beautiful woman needs rescuing from the dangerous abductors that hold her for ransom. The abductors are called children, and the ransom is called feeding them and giving them a bath. She needs you to not only rescue her, but romanticize her. It’s called flowers for no apparent reason, love notes left next to her pillow, coffee made sitting on the night stand at 6 am, a Friday night dessert with friends. You called the sitter and negotiated the terms of her release.

Your son wants you to do the army crawl with him, while holding army men, in the backyard fighting off terrorists. Your daughter wants you to hold her hand, while wearing a tiara, escorting her to her chariot, as you take her on an ice cream date.

Holding this all together, week to week, month to month, year to year, in real-time. You are Jack Bauer. This is your mission- risk it all to protect the ones you love.

 

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The Masks We Wear

10_15MaskHalloween has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid. The buzz and excitement that comes with decorating your house, carving pumpkins, dressing up, and getting candy; I mean what more could a kid want? As a young boy, I thought it was so cool when my dad and other dads would walk around with their kids, street to street, house to house to help us ask the infamous three word question to each door that opened up to us, “Trick or treat!?”

That same three word question has always stuck in my mind as I got older: Trick or treat?

Halloween is a holiday for pretending we’re someone else, but are we pretending beyond just this one day? In college I went through plenty of pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Heck, this resonates with me even today, so I bet I’m not alone with the identity struggle.

I think this begs the question – are you the man you thought you’d be? Ask yourself, “Am I the husband I vowed I’d be?” Or maybe ask, “Am I showing up as the father I promised I would be?” I encourage you to ask yourself these set of questions and then asked your loved ones.

In reference to characters, one of my favorite character developments comes from the Mighty Ducks movie trilogy. In every movie, when the main character was out of alignment, the elder, wiser statesman always showed up to help the other have a reality check. Hans and Yans did it for Coach Bombay in D1 & D2 and Bombay returned the favor and sat down with Charlies in D3. Each one of these talks reminded the troubled character of the great man that others saw them as and they always ended it with saying, “So be that man.”

If you are out of alignment with how you wanted to show up as a father, husband, or leader I think Halloween 2015 is your call to action to hit the reset button. It’s your time to be UNCOMMEN and not dress up in who you want to be, but instead BE THAT MAN.

Here’s my “Be That Man” Challenge:

  • Go into the holiday season with a developed action plan to address, “Here is how I am going to show up as a (pick one) father, husband, leader.” Include tangible things you can do (i.e. I will take my wife out on a date once a week, I will spend every Saturday morning removed from my phone and play with my kid) and evaluate how well you did it, etc.
  • Use the weeks in between Halloween and Thanksgiving to Be That Man by implementing your action plan. Ask for regular feedback from loved ones to gauge how you’re doing. Make changes accordingly.
  • The first day of the challenge is Halloween. The last day of the challenge is Thanksgiving Day. (Yes, this gives you something else to be thankful for – your progression throughout this journey).

Use your UNCOMMEN community to keep you accountable. Begin on Halloween Day and take someone to go out and ask, “Trick or treat!?” It’s no trick, you can do this. That version of yourself does exist and I believe doing this challenge will help you reclaim it.  So be that man. Be that man.

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UNCOMMEN Husbands are Thermostats

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UNCOMMEN Husbands are Thermostats not Thermometers.

I have a gift.

I can take my wife’s emotional temperature from across the room. When she is hot (and I don’t mean ready to slip between the sheets with me), I seek a cooler climate, perhaps on the deck with an iced tea. When she’s cold, I look for a warmer personality – like a TV – to keep me company.

To be UNCOMMEN, you should cherish your wife. In other words, you should consider and care for your bride like you warm your own body. Unless you are in Seal training, you instinctively warm your body when cold. If it’s too hot outside, you put on your sandals and crank up the AC. If it’s too cold, you don the merino wool socks and build a fire. So to bring warmth to your wife as we bring warmth to our own bodies is encouragement to consider and care for her emotional needs in the same way we consider and care for our own physical needs.

If she’s chilly, it’s our job to warm her up. If she’s steaming, then we help lower the mercury. Therefore, the call to cherish means we have to engage when we’d rather shrink back.

Whenever I sense a slight irritation with my wife, my tendency is to pull away. But if I get a tiny sliver in my finger, my whole body springs into action. My nerves shoot pain warnings to my brain; like missile lock, my eyes fix on the problem; my legs halt any movement; my other digits dig out the intruder. Proportionally the sliver affects a small surface area, but my whole body responds. I wish that was true in my marriage. When a sliver of bitterness or frustration gets between us, rather than initiate, I let it fester.

In my recent readings I came across this advice- “Do not go to bed angry, because when we let stuff build up, it tends to destroy our relationships in the long run.” This doesn’t mean stay up and fight – but rather to resolve issues quickly.

It’s common to avoid conflict, but UNCOMMEN pursue peace at all costs. Is the temp off a bit in your relationship with your wife? Time to adjust the thermostat.

Be UNCOMMEN.

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