Family-of-five

Evolve….Already

Over the past few days the “hot” topic of discussion has been abuse…domestic and child abuse among NFL players.
People are blaming the NFL for not doing enough to solve the problems. They probably haven’t…
But do you know what they have done?

They’ve shined a bright light on the abuse problem…not just in the NFL..but in everyday life too.

Domestic abuse is more widespread than most of us would even want to fathom.

Myself, I’ve seen it first hand…
As a child, I witnessed  my biological father be a violent womanizing drunk. I was never sure why or he could do the things he would.
Oh sure he was a Vietnam veteran, that was always the excuse used for his actions. He witnessed horrible things in the war.
Things that no person should ever endure…True.
The things I saw him do…no child should endure
He would beat the shit out of my mom…slap her around, pull her hair, call her names…
Honestly I’m not sure how he didn’t kill her. Leaving her crying , bloody and bruised…not just physically but emotionally.
He would try to make it better…saying he wouldn’t do it again and that he loved her.
Lies…that was to make himself feel better…not her.
My mom may have not have been strong enough physically to fight back…but she became strong enough mentally.
She took EVERYTHING away from him…kids, house, credit, job…
What kind of person does that to a woman…mother…wife?
And to do those things in front his kids…it left a stain in my brain…
I can still see him fighting to get through the front door of our house as all 100lbs of my mom trying to stop him by crushing the door onto him all the while he’s screaming profanities at her…and the cops coming afterwards.
It scared me then…and it still scares me now.
His father, also a war veteran…and a womanizing drunk,. Although I never saw his violent side I heard about it.
I truly believe they were a product of their environment…
But that’s not an excuse to change it!
I didn’t want to be that person…that man…that husband…that father.
When I met my wife…I told her the stories…they worried her.
What if I became…violent…a drunk…a womanizer?
How could I prove to her that I wasn’t going to become a product of my environment?
By the time I met my wife I had become estranged from my biological father…that was a start.
I made the decision for myself that I didn’t want to be like that…I evolved from that environment…not a product of.
Everyday I still have to prove that I’m evolving in my environment…I’m not saying I’m ever going to be the perfect husband, but I’m never going to stop trying.

That same way of thinking continued when we started a family…
Love…Fear…Respect…
That was how I was raised…
Love your parents…fear your parents…respect your parents.
Love and respect…those seem mutual together.
Can’t have one without the other…but if I got in trouble…
Fear…is what I got.
Fear can be many things to a kid when it comes to parents…usually discipline…and it came in many forms when I was a kid.
Yelling…grounding…spank, smacked, or hit with something…there was actually a belt in the house…a white leather disco belt that had “This belt is specifically for spanking Tedd (my brother) & James Craven” written on it.
I’m not going to bad mouth my mom & dad (technically step-dad but he raised me…he earned the title) and their discipline methods. It was how they were disciplined as children… And so what was good enough for them…by God it was good enough for us…
After all they turned out alright…Right?
Yelling and groundings I could deal with…I would get smacked, spanked or hit because I hit my brother or vice versa when I thought he wronged me or me him…huh…
Where did I learn that from?
My environment of discipline…
Now I’m not saying as a parent I’ve never spanked my kids…I have…a swat on the butt never hurt…wrong…
The old saying “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you” is true..I hated myself for doing it.
I made my own kid cry…I’m supposed to be their protector…not the one hurting them.
What am I doing as parent?
I had to get myself out of the mind set of spanking…
I had to evolve myself…and the environment my kids were being raised in.
Love and respect…without the fear.
Open communication… Being held responsible for their actions…the two biggest things in discipline…
I’m not saying I’m a perfect father…I’ve made some mistakes…I’m saying I’m evolving as I raise my kids.

Life is about evolving your environment… If you think it can’t get any better…it always can….life has a way.

I’m Mad…That You’re Mad….

What has happened to us?

I don’t know it’s political correctness…if we’ve become a bunch of wusses…or become less tolerant… something sure has changed.

So…Welcome to the era of ‘feigned outrage’.

 

“Every joke has to be funny to ME, has to be worded the way I would say it, and you have to agree with ME or I am OUTRAGED and will probably call you a name instead of having a conversation”.-Bill McAllister-CBS Radio

That’s pretty spot on…differing opinions don’t matter much anymore…unless you’re ready to be insulted for having one.  

“Normal” conversations are over about politics, religion, family, and just life in general. The art of conversation has forever been lost…lost behind the anonymity of the keyboard and computer screen…in a 140 characters.

Read any of the comments on a news website about a story…nothing but insults about each other…strangers to each other but yet ready to form an opinion of each other, based on a comment about a story written by someone else…

People have always had ability to say what ever they want, saying something disparaging to someones face, though rarely done, took guts. The reason it was rarely done…respect.  You didn’t have to agree with the other persons differing opinion…but you respected them for having an opinion and standing by it. That doesn’t mean you didn’t think they were a dummy or an idiot…you just didn’t tell them…and they probably thought you were too. 

Working For The “Man” Doesn’t Have to Suck!

                                                    cartoon_working_hard-saidaonline

My Wife Said This Is My Jerry Maguire Moment…

I Said I’m Just Trying to Make a Difference…

Enhancing good will & productivity is exceedingly important for both employee and business growth. Listed below are 15 points of interest to enhancing both…without giving raises and bonuses to make employees happy…a lot of times it’s the small things that make a BIG difference in boosting morale.

1. Let them talk:People have to vent…they need to vent…let them vent.Meet individually or in small groups to share problems or issues, keep it small, larger group conversations will lead to either too many problems and not enough solutions or some getting on their soapbox about one problem and not letting others speak.By letting employees air their grievance it will open communication and make them more open to change in the future.

2.Build a Culture of Trust:Trust is EVERYTHING not only to employees but to management too.It’s essential to build and cultivate trust between employees and management.-Allow people to make decisions…include them in discussions, trust input and decisions.-Communicate…share info, good or bad-Provide constructive feedback-Speak with a purpose

3.Give Employees Responsibility:All employees can point inefficiencies, but none feel empowered to do anything about it.Listen to employees and learn what gets “in the way” if the job that they want to do.Involve them to solve those barriers. You just may get new ideas that weren’t once thought of.

4. Make sure Upper Management is Available:Walk the floor…Be engaging…talk with employeesAsk questions and solicit ideas.Employees will feel valued when they feel their opinions, ideas, and work is valued.They take pride in their work…and like being part of something.

5. Treat Employees Like People:The fastest way to kill morale is treating them like an object rather than a person.They have feelings, emotions, and different personalities…treat them the way you’d want to be treated…sounds cliche but true.

6. Say “Thank You”:2 small words…when said with meaning…makes 1 BIG difference.

7. Smile More:The social environment is a big contributor to employee burnouts.Manager’s demeanor can directly affect the whole staff…employees can read the mood of their boss by the look on their face.Smile…laugh…talk about fun things once in a while…maybe even crack a joke.

8. Keep it Transparent:Keep employees in the loop. When employees don’t know what’s going in the company and left out of the loop of information…rumors and gossip fill in the blanks of the information left out.

9.Remember the “Why”:Talk to employees about the purpose of their job…Remind them how it affects the company as whole and not just. Tell them why their job is important…over time people have a tendency to forget why their job is important.

10. Have an Encouraging Environment:Things don’t always go as planned.When everyone is putting forth a strong effort but still face challenges with a task it’s important to create and maintain an encouraging environment so employees feel they can talk openly and honestly with supervisors and managers about the challenges….so there’s more of a team effort and game plan to keep moving forward.

11.Recognize and Reward:Set goals and reward for meeting those goals….or when an employee goes above and beyond. Employees want to feel valued…treat them to dinner with their spouse or an experience with their family.When an employee receives a bonus…it’s appreciated but the employee feels like they earned it, This is something they would brag about to their family and friends.

12.Recognize Special Events:Birthday cakes once a month… the birth of a co-workers baby….or milestone work anniversary.Sounds little…but means a lot.

13.Out of the Ordinary:Organize something out of the ordinary…a little surprise at work never hurt.Employees that work all day at computers and answer phones are tense..its stressful.Bring in a massage therapist to help relieve stress as they work.Warehouse employees could use team building…Organize a game of laser tag or help out a charity.

14.Old Fashion Appreciation:Cash incentives are nice…but don’t always leave an employee appreciatedRecognize good hard work with a handshake and a smile.Thanking employees face to face on a regular basis makes it easier when offering constructive criticism as well. Makes it clear that you’re trying to make things better, you’re making the effort…and so will the employee.

15. What motivates:Don’t be afraid to ask the question…”What’s your motivation?”Often you’ll be surprised that money is not the only answer.

Very important to lifting morale…none of these will work if you’re not GENUINE!!Most employees will recognize forced socialization, cheap thoughtless gifts, or fake comments…which would result in more damage to morale.

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name…Really?

I’m not talking first names or the most often forgot about middle…
Oh sure  those names were probably given for a reason…have a meaning or family history…Maybe it was given to be different.
I’m not sure how I got my name…it’s pretty generic…James Anthony…hell my brother has the same middle name as me, leaving me to think not too much thought was put into it.
Sure I can go by James,Jim, Jimbo, or Jimmy…I really don’t have a preference…depends who’s saying my name.
To be honest…only my Grandma called me Jimbo…and could get away with it.
A lot of thought was put into naming my kids though..above all us…nothing mean could rhyme with their names.
Secondly…make sure nothing cruel or mean could be added to it either.
One of my boys was close to being named Jack…but then I thought…What if he wasn’t that bright?
He could be called…Jackass or Jack-off…I just couldn’t do that.
Other parents should think about those things…I went to school with a kid that was named Walter Melon…I’m pretty sure his parents hated him from birth.

But what about a last name?
Ahh…now there lies my question…
Does that name really matter as much as a first name?
More people call me by my first name them my last name.
I’m connected more to my first name than my last name…
I can identity with it and it identifies me.
In my case it probably has to do with family history…or lack there of.
The name Craven actually is an olde English word for coward.
Lovely isn’t it?
That alone should be reason not to want the name…but it’s not.
I’m a man without a family… Not connected to a family would be a better way to put it.
I have brothers and a sister that I’ve been estranged from for almost 20,  years, and a deceased biological father that I spent most of my life trying to figure how and where I fit into his life.
So…leaving me to wonder way do I even keep the name?
I can’t identity myself with it or with the family it comes from.
Quite honestly I don’t consider myself part of the Craven family.
I would really like to just drop it from being part of me… its not me.
The name doesn’t belong to me and I don’t want it anymore.

But is it too late to change it?

The Hardest Question to Answer……

Alex, Jake, and EmmyI remember writing this after my son Alex was diagnosed with cancer in 2011

“How’s Alex doing?”

It’s the same question over and over when some sees me or and my wife Nancy. We appreciate the thought and sentiment behind the question. People genuinely care about our son. Over time it just gets to the point when you don’t want to answer the question anymore. It’s the same generic answer every time….”He’s doing fine.”  What else could we answer or should we answer.  Sure we could answer could answer with…His hair fell out, he has sores in his mouth, he’s tired, he’s weak, or he’s been throwing up. Those are the real life answers; those are the things that happen when someone is battling cancer with chemotherapy. Some people want to hear those answers…we were very reluctant to give them. When we gave those answers, we would get sympathy. To be honest…we didn’t want someone to tell us how sorry they felt for us and Alex going through what our family was going through. We already knew.  More than anything we appreciated their support in the fight, the prayers for healing, the positive vibes, and thoughts to give us strength. We wouldn’t be where we are today without everyone being there for us.

We had our own “How’s Alex Doing?” questions. Those questions were for the doctors. Those questions were the hardest to ask and even harder to wait for the answers.  Yes I said wait…because that’s what you do…WAIT.  I hated waiting, I wanted answers…NOW!  It’s our 12 year old son we were asking about. Understandably getting the right answers takes time…tests take time, lab results take time, getting a diagnosis takes time.  Waiting for a diagnosis was the longest time of our life. I think half my hair went gray in the three weeks we waited from the first time we heard our son had a form a cancer to the diagnosis of Large B Cell Lymphoma of the Bone. But finally we had answer!

All that did was bring more questions. A ton more questions…We just hoped the doctors had the answers.

  • Q. Now what?
  • A. We fix him!
  • Q. Chemotherapy or radiation?
  • A. Chemotherapy…aggressive chemotherapy
  • Q. How soon?
  • A. Right away!
  • Q. How long will it last
  • A. Six rounds of 96 hours of infused chemotherapy at a time
  • Q. How will you the therapy will work?
  • A. We don’t…time will tell.

All those questions make the question of “How’s Alex doing?” seem so trivial…but so much easier to answer. The difference between our questions and everyone else’s…we needed answers, everyone else wanted answers. It’s frustrating waiting for answers…whether you want to hear them or not. The longer we waited for answers them more our, or at least my mind wandered to the “What if?” questions, and honestly that’s really not a place you want your mind to wander to. I really started to get a feeling for the Tom Petty song “Waiting is the Hardest Part”…it played over and over in my head.

Thankfully all our questions were answered….in due time, when they could be answered with decisive answers. Persistence does pay off, If there’s something my wife and I learned in the year we fought the good fight against our sons cancer, and something we could pass on to others, it’s never stop asking questions. Question everything and everybody…from the doctors and nurses in the oncology clinic to the doctors and nurses in the hospital.

It could actually save a life!

A Day In The Life…

The death/suicide of Robin Williams seemed to be a real eye opener for people…

At least it was to me…it has caused me to look at my life

I’ve heard a lot of people say “He had everything…success, money, and admiration”

Here’s the thing…that describes what we see of his life.

I’ve even heard people call him a “coward” and “selfish” for taking his own life

He wasn’t a coward…he was courageous

He had enough courage to face his problems the only way he could see fit.

We didn’t live his life.

But in some way we all do…

As a parent, spouse, friend, provider…to most that would seem to be enough in life to keep you going, keep your chin up, the reasons you get out of bed every morning.

Truth of it all…we spend most of our time fighting perception versus reality of life

I’m not going to pretend to know what Robin Williams was going through…none of us can

He was different but just like the rest of us.

I probably think about death more than I should.

I’m always thinking about how I’m going to die…(that’s probably not healthy)

Cancer…heart attack…car accident…or maybe just stop breathing in my sleep

Or would at some point life just get to unbearable that I would do it myself?

I have my reasons to why I think about it all…

As a kid I always would ask myself…What would life be like if I wasn’t here? Would anyone even notice?

My perception was that no one would notice, they hardly notice that I’m here now…except for when they want something…unfortunately that way of thinking has stuck with me into my adulthood.

I’ve convinced myself that it’s not the reality…

I know it’s cliche’ to blame parenting or your upbringing…

I can’t really do that…I was a Mommy’s boy

Knowing that she loved me and would do anything for me should have been enough to keep away any bad thoughts or feelings.

It was and it wasn’t…

My childhood and into my teenage years were spent chasing what I didn’t have…and that was just wanting to fit in.

Isn’t that what every kid wants?

No one wants to be rejected or told they aren’t good enough.

Not from family or from peers or from anyone.

It happens and as a kid…it was heartbreaking.

You don’t dare share that with anyone…

Who really wants to hear “What’s wrong with you?”

Or the dreaded…”You’re overreacting…it’s not as bad as you think”

So you just learn to cope.

Some do drugs, some drink, some runaway…some just find a way out…by any means necessary.

Although I never did drugs…I did drink some and considered the other 2

Too scared to runaway…

I did consider the ultimate way out..

16 years old…I held a gun in my hand…and contemplated…

“Would anyone notice I was even gone?” “How different would life really be if I wasn’t here”

Obviously I didn’t do it…

That doesn’t mean I don’t still think that way.

It just so happened that day…A voice stopped me…

Not sure who it was or what it was…at the time I wasn’t a church goer…wasn’t sure if I even believed in God

Some days I’m not sure if I do now..

Just in case…I answered back

“Fine…but I’m going to test you every day. If things don’t get better…one way or another…I’m going to want to die…either you do it, or I’ll do it”

24 years later…as an adult, I’m still here, and I still fight everyday to fit in.

I’ve tested that voice…it has tested me.

I can be in a room full of people and feel alone.

There’s been days I just want to punch everyone in the face.

I’ll force myself to smile.

I’ve forced others to smile

There’s days of happiness and I don’t want them to end…Nights that I don’t want to go to sleep…Just in case

Have things gotten any better?

I’m still here…Everyday…and I mean everyday…I remind that voice of that conversation.

The Reason I Had Kids…Father’s Day

Way to often I read or hear people say that they don’t like kids or don’t want to have kids…for whatever their reasons are I’ll probably never understand.

I always knew I wanted to have kids…I think it’s because no matter how old I get, I’m still a kid at heart. 

I have three kids…a daughter and 2 boys…and at 40 years old, I’d still consider having another one.  

You know why?  

Because I love my kids! I love everything about them. For as much of as influence I’ve had on them, they’ve had a much greater influence on me.  They’ve made me who I am…they taught me how to love unconditionally, how to forgive when it’s hard to, and how to forget the things I need to, They’ve taught me that no matter how trivial I think something is….that it’s the most important thing to them…just for me to listen.

As a parent I would love for each one of my kids to be just like me…I’m grateful that they are not.  They are better off learning to be who they are…discovering life for themselves…discovering who they are…I’m just here to guide them.

A free spirit…an athlete…a care giver…an artist…a writer…a survivor…a little brother…a big brother…a big sister…loving…a daughter…sons…and family…Are just a few ways they’ve discovered what they are in their time…

I don’t need one day out of the year to celebrate being a father…when I’ve celebrated every day since I’ve become one.

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