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Stu-Pendous Blog - Family Life

These are the thoughts of speaker, author and camp director Stu Saunders.
For Stu’s original blog, you may still access his archives here.

  • Time to parent…

    Aug 19, 2011

    Driving home yesterday from a speech in Walled Lake, Michigan I heard a commercial for “Winners”. I was shocked and saddened. There was a young girl yelling at her mom because she didn’t purchase her the right clothes. She said, “Don’t you know mom, what I wear to school will make or break me!” The announcer then said, “Get your children what they want!”


    People try and buy their children’s love, they want to be their kids buddies, they buy them all the name brands and designer labels. Some parents dress their little girls (6 year olds) in tops that say “Dangerous Devil”, “My mom is naughty!”, “I get what I want because I am cute”. These are shirts I actually saw at 12 Oaks Mall in Michigan yesterday. I even saw a baby shirt that said, “I’m living proof my mom is easy” 

    They put their 12 year olds in short, shorts and wonder why at 16 their boys have little respect for women or for that matter their girls for themselves. We can’t expect our children to grow up until we as parents grow up and become adults and start parenting.

    In twenty years of running a summer camp I know a few things. One, your child can survive and actually will enjoy being unplugged. Two, for sure your children are sponges. You get drunk in front of them, they will be more apt to get drunk, smoke drugs or do hard drugs they will too. As a parent you have a responsibility to teach and positively influence your children and your neighbours. Your actions, language and comments are being sucked in by them.

    The biggest challenge with this generation, the children, is the last one is so not ready to shape today’s. PLEASE be a parent. Love your children, they actually want to spend time with you. Remember when going out for dinner was special? They will love board games if we choose to be engaged with them. It’s more valuable than any app or video game.

    Let them Play outside (running on the Wii Fit is not playing outside). Allow them to get their designer clothes really dirty and embrace every single cut, bruise and scrape. You did and you survived. Stop taking their childhood away. They aren’t your BFF’s they are your opportunity to create a better tomorrow. Love them, teach them and spend time with them. They don’t have to be cool like you were or you were not. They really just want to be your child and be happy.

    I am not perfect, I am always working at being a better dad. I know I can do more and have made BIG steps to be more “there” for my three amazing kids. Like any work of art it takes time and effort. Shouldn’t we treat our children as if they were the most beautiful creations on the planet? To shape and colour in with the most vibrant of colours available.

    Something to think about.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on Aug 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (3)

  • Christmas Morning

    May 7, 2011

    One of my most vivid memories of being a child was Christmas eve when I was 6. My brother, whom I looked up to (because he was taller), was in a very excited mood. Santa would soon be here. He and I ran up and down the hallway much to my parents chagrin. We yelled, laughed, teased and played. I remember being absolutely exhausted. My favourite moment of that night was when Craig disappeared into the bathroom and returned moments later with his pyjama pants pulled low and his oversized pyjama top pulled lower to meet his bottoms. It made him look like he had short little legs and we all laughed. I of course, immediately copied him. Both of us running all over the house screaming “short legs, short legs, I’ve got short legs!”. My sides ached of laughter.

    That night was one of my favourite memories of childhood. It didn’t cost anything and it wasn’t pre-planned. It just happened. There is a great saying that goes something like; “The best moments in life tend to happen when there are no camera’s around.” I am not sure who said that. Maybe it was my mom or dad, maybe it was Martin Luther King or Tony Robbins. It doesn’t matter who because it does hold some much truth.

    I have been really hung up lately on the idea of creating memories and moments. The stuff you do at 16 will be the stuff you tell friends, family and kids about at 35. A picture can show the event but your words and description will give it a pulse. The amazing thing about your memories are they are yours. You have the creative license to tell the story. The mountain of snow you scaled at recess that was 30 feet high. The first kiss that was under the stars, near the water on a dock with a warm breeze soothing your sun drenched skin. The advise you got from a teacher that steered you in a direction you never expected. The random road trip that created small moments that become epic over time. There is no App, no video game or virtual experience that can be programmed for those morsels of childhood moments that become the feasts of the stories you will share with others.

    Unplug today, if the sun is shining, take off your shoes and crunch your toes in the cool spring grass, run, laugh, play. Create new moments. Be aware and store them to your rolodex of life. Life is beautiful.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on May 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

  • Up where we belong

    Mar 12, 2011

    “Up Where We Belong” is a song from the eighties. It’s sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. It was a pretty popular song in its time. I haven’t heard that song for a VERY long time. Today, while I was cleaning my little cabin in the woods it came on the Radio. I was instantly transported back in time. Back to 1989. This was the year I worked in Grand Bend (the first time), I was hired to be the DJ of Sanders on the Beach. At the time Sanders was the most popular bar. It had three patios, outdoor music, faced Lake Huron and had some of the best sunsets in the world. People would line up for hours, yes hours, on a long weekend to get in and pay a very inflated price for a drink. I was popular. Not because I was good looking or the life of the party, but because I was the DJ of the coolest bar in “the Bend”. I wasn’t a great DJ. There were far better. I was selected by my brother to be ‘the man’.

    In an instant this morning, when I heard this song I was whisked back to a very different time. A time of pure young fun, absolute immature stupidity, summer crushes and blanked out nights. I was 19, I was invincible. I went on to work three more summers in the Bend and I always had fun. They weren’t the best times, but they were moments etched into my memory. Moments of new friends and a popularity that I never experienced in my life prior to those summer days at the beach.

    I struggle with young people that take jobs that are less then what they want just because it’s “better money”. I am challenged by youth that rush through the days of unbridled possibility. Those days shaped me. They helped me solidify my understanding of right and wrong, maturity and immaturity.

    There should be a place in everyones life to play, to be stupid and to be young. That one song reminded me of that. At the end of each night in the “Sandbar”, our dance bar in the basement of Sanders, I would play that Joe Cocker song. The young love of the day would dance, kiss and a sense of calm would envelope me. Somehow I knew that these times were unique, they wouldn’t last, but they were special.

    I miss those days, I miss the clean whiteboard. No idea of what was to be written or drawn. Absolutely ignorant to the real struggles or triumphs that would face me over the next 20 years. Why? Because it didn’t matter.

    I was up where I belonged. I was the DJ.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Mar 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

  • Lessons Learned

    Dec 29, 2010

    As the year draws to a close and the prospect of a new year approaches, the excitement of New Year’s resolutions is upon us all. We all make a set of goals and objectives trying to make our year better, our lives better. The truth is that studies show that 12 percent of men and 10 percent of women actually achieve their resolutions.

    So, I thought I would share what I have learned in 2010 with the idea in mind that it may help myself and perhaps you in setting your goals for 2011.

    1. Be the kindest person you can be and the world will come to you.
    2. Show gratitude every day and in every way. Thank you are the two most important words in any language.
    3. Eat better, sugar and processed foods are not good.
    4. Just because the label says it’s natural doesn’t make it good for you.
    5. Drink at least 1 litre of water every day, if you can 2 litres.
    6. Have the conversations you need to have, even if they scare you (this one I need to always work on).
    7. Facebook is not the greatest thing in the world.
    8. Playing on the Wii is not the same as playing outside.
    9. Many parents are too over protective and could do well to remember their childhood.
    10. Making someones day doesn’t take cash.
    11. Reading a book is a still awesome. Including the BOOK OF AWESOME.
    12. The value of a hand written note has way more value then an email or text message.
    13. I can always be better and you can make that choice every day.
    14. The more you give the more you get.
    15. I really enjoy a glass of red wine.
    16. I love taking my dog for a walk. Be outside more in 2011.
    17. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
    18. Grow where you are planted.
    19. Journal, journal, journal! If your life is worth living, it’s worth recording.
    20. Get up earlier.
    21. Simplify your life. Clutter in your world = clutter in your mind.
    22. I have a lot to learn - So do you.
    23. It’s ok to say no.
    24. It’s ok to say “I don’t know.”
    25. Ask your parents about their childhood.
    26. I don’t always have to make my kids life “better” than yours. My life (and yours) was probably pretty good.
    27. Spend more money on a good mattress than a good TV.
    28. Summer Camp is a good thing that every child should experience.
    29. Apple has the best customer service in any industry.
    30. Writing a gratitude list is a very good thing.
    31. 1% actions steps are the key to all success. Break down your goals.
    32. I can make a New Year’s Resolution at any time. In fact the 1st of January isn’t the best day (statistically proven).
    33. I am incredibly lucky to be alive, live in the country I do and have the family I have. Thank you.

    Happy New Year to all! Forward this list if you think it’s valuable.

    Thanks to all those that have supported me, YLCC, OSLC and all that we do.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

  • Friendaversery

    Nov 24, 2010

    It is said that children come to us more highly evolved then adults. In fact children are often quoted and used as examples of wisdom. They give us constant examples. In fact most parents will willingly tell you that their lives have been changed dramatically by their kids. They have new outlooks on life, new priorities and even a new appreciation for the little things.

    The wonder that a toddler experiences every single day is awesome. A butterfly, flower, dog, shiny key or bright piece of fabric can bring a clown sized smile to a one or two year old. The excitement of running fast or jumping over or in a puddle can amaze a four or five year old. The creation a seven year old makes out of a cardboard box can entertain for days even weeks. The optimistic perspective of a ten year old can create change in even the most shrewd forty-five year old corporate titan.

    My kids are amazing. They teach me every day and have for years. Kristina at six years old, now nineteen, said, “Wouldn’t it be great if life was like a VHS tape? You could fast forward through the bad stuff and rewind and watch the good stuff over and over again!”

    Yesterday, while talking to my ten year old son, he was excited to tell me about how special the day was. When I asked him why he said, “Today is me and Luke’s friendaversary!”

    “What’s that mean?”, I asked having an idea what this ‘holiday may represent.

    “It’s been five years since Luke and I became friends! Each year we celebrate our friendship.”

    Awesome. Truly simple. I hope that hallmark doesn’t hear about this new found celebration or else we will soon find “Friendaversary” cards available at local card shops.

    What a great idea, celebrating our friends. Luke and Matty don’t go out for a fancy dinner, buy an expensive gift or go away on a trip. Matty says they simply talk about “old times” and laugh.

    Please take a moment today to do two things; one, celebrate a good friend and two, ask a child about their perspective on life, what’s important and how to better enjoy our days. You may be amazed at what you learn.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (3)

  • Moments that matter

    Jan 10, 2010

    Being a single father you realize how lucky you had it before the separation. I don’t mean the relationship I had with my partner but the access every day to my children. When you’re married you find lots to do that doesn’t involve spending time with the kids. You are busy, you have work to do, there is something “else” to do.

    “I’ll be there in a minute…” is a far to common phrase that resonates through too many households.

    I am granted access to my children for a total of 66 hours once every two weeks. When you take out sleeping, 26 hours and the drive 12 hours, I have the opportunity to spend 26 hours with my kids. That’s less then 3 days per month of “face time”.

    Somewhere over history our court system has deemed this an adequate amount of time to build and maintain a quality father, child relationship. Well I am here to say that it really isn’t. It’s actually completely the opposite. Since there is not much chance of this changing and parents being considered equal, fathers that do care need to create “MTM’s”, moments that matter.

    Running a camp I get to work with so many young staff that come from single parent homes. I’ve asked many of them about how they remember growing up with having to live with two parents. So many have said the times they spent with their father were so amazing, or they remember those time with such clarity.

    Why is that? It’s because a good single father needs to work to create so much in a very short time. It’s our job to create MTM’s every moment. If we don’t we risk being lost. It’s not a competition, it’s a responsibility.

    So, last night my son and I got to enjoy a BIG MTM. I purchased two tickets at a charity auction for a Toronto Maple Leafs game and we watched them lose, it was a horrible game. The Leafs were abysmal. Here’s the thing though, our night was amazing and we created a true MTM.

    The moment of clarity for me was when Matthew turned to me and said, “Dad, this is the best night of my life.”

    Please understand that this is not meant to say that all fathers deserve equal access, there are many that do not. Each father is different and there needs to be less of a quick, one sided judgement.  Until our courts realize that parents are of equal value and that a good father has an equal role in the upbringing of a healthy child, I will continue to find and create MTM’s for my children. I also encourage all parents not to take the time you have with your kids for granted. These days happen only once.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on Jan 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (4)

  • because of you

    Dec 2, 2009

    I am not a “writer”. I have never published a novel. Poetry is not my thing. I am not that eloquent. I love to “spell check”.

    I am not the owner of multiple degrees. My awards shelf is small and the accolades are yet to arrive.

    I write though. I write to express my thoughts. I write to share ideas. I write for me and I guess in the end I am writing for you.

    There’s something about have someone else read my thoughts. It is even better out loud. It’s like a second chance at thinking it through.

    Sometimes when I hear my BLOG read, I hear the words I wanted to say but somehow didn’t.

    Imagine if you had someone else in your head to read your words back to you before you spoke them. Before you hurt someone with careless comments. Before you said “hate”. Maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to say no or even yes.

    Maybe if I could of had you read me my thoughts when I was making all those poor choices… maybe I would have done things differently or not at all. Perhaps I wouldn’t have said some of the things I said or acted the way I did.

    Perhaps though, I would not have lived this life at all. There is something about hearing my thoughts with such eloquence and clarity that makes me sound smarter.

    Here’s the reality though. Most of us don’t have our thoughts read back to us. We have to trust ourselves. Sometimes that person is a scary person to trust. Maybe, just maybe we’re not supposed to have that angel on our shoulder. In the end the universe might just want us to learn from our own mistakes and have no filter at all. Really isn’t that what life is all about?

    I think we actually get this opportunity given to us everyday. It may be the role of a mom or dad, teacher, sister, brother, uncle, coach, doctor, friend, partner, the speaker in the assembly or stranger you meet only once. What if they are telling us that we need to rethink our choices, decisions or path. We choose not to listen though because we don’t need to be “told”. We already know.

    I think we are supposed to listen but we don’t. It takes forever for us to learn. Hey, maybe it’s this blog?

    In the end I still like it when you read my BLOGS back to me.

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life Learning and Growing on Dec 2, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Family Time?

    Nov 18, 2009

    Every night as a child without question we came home and my family ate together. It was just the way it was. We all talked at dinner, sometimes we fought, sometimes we just sat together and celebrated our disfunction. This continued well after my parents separated. My mom would make dinner for my brother and I. Even when she was a single mom, working full time and struggling to make ends meet.

    As the generations changed, the idea of nightly dinners disappeared. There became Sunday night dinners. One night a week that you would try to eat as a family. Now, in 2009 we fall to the quick fix, microwave, boil in the bag, throw in the oven for 20 minutes type meals. The real crime is that a family dinner has become “eating out”. I am guilty of this as well. I am a single dad that struggles with eating at home, making a dinner, creating a meal that everyone likes. It is MUCH easier to just order off a menu and let someone else cook and clean.

    It doesn’t make it right though.

    I was just in Michigan, having dinner at a very expensive chain restaurant, on a Tuesday, in an area that is the hardest hit in America due to the current economic “crisis”.

    Not a seat open in the house. 15-20 minute wait. I look over at a family of four, drinking pop, eating a tower of onion rings, one of the boys standing on his chair while eating, the oldest daughter texting, the middle daughter playing her Nintendo DS, the mother reading an email on her Blackberry, the father was oblivious to it all.

    I asked my waitress how much they spent on their dinner… “about $200…”

    I was so saddened. I was sad for that family because they won’t have the experience that I had. My family was and is far from perfect, but I cherish those dinners more then ever. I am making a commitment this weekend to my family, we will eat at home, I will cook and we will all talk, laugh and argue together. That’s a family, I hope it’s not too late to save that old idea.

    What’s for dinner tonight?

    Posted by Stu Saunders in Leadership Family Life on Nov 18, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (1)

  • Hallmark happiness

    Jun 21, 2009

    Here I sit on my deck on a beautiful sunny Sunday, I reflect on my good fortune. I have three children. All amazing and unique in their own ways.

    I am a single father and don’t get to see my kids nearly as much as I would like or probably should.

    Today is also Father’s day. The holiday was started in 1910 and became an official holiday in 1972 after president Nixon signed a congressional resolution. It’s mostly celebrated in North America. The day really became big when the Hallmark greeting card company realized there was plenty of money to be made. More money is made on Mother’s day then Father’s day but there were no shortage of people lined up yesterday buying a card at the last minute.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the idea of a day dedicated to recognizing the role of a father in a child’s life. Their role has been downplayed for most of history, their rights have been pushed aside in most custody cases. I am all for a one day “special” high five, a nice hand made card and a cup of tea made for me. I think though that we NEED to celebrate our loved ones; family, friends and colleagues every single day. It’s not in a card on a specific day that has great impact, it’s the phone call when you least expect it or the hand written note that arrives in October for no reason. Those are the moments that I would cherish much, much more.

    So today celebrate your dad, grandfather or friend who works hard to raise his children. The real challenge and gift is to do it again some other day, not on a calendar but in your heart.

    Please follow me on Twitter. I will be sending out a FREE Twitter Cast called “Breaking from the heard” on Friday for all those that are following me in Twitter.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Jun 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (2)

  • seventy three

    Apr 6, 2009

    Here’s the amazing thing. My father is 73 years old. He and my mom who is 70, have been living in the jungle for 5 weeks in Costa Rica. Their days are full of adventure. Hiking through the mountains, riding rafts down the river, waking at 5 am to swim under a waterfall.

    I just got a bunch of pictures from them. The one I have included is of my father repelling down a cliff into a warm pool at the base of a waterfall.

    He’s 73 years old. Stop putting off the life you were destined to live people. Do something amazing today. His actions have inspired me for sure.


    Posted by Stu Saunders in Family Life Learning and Growing Motivation on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permanent Link | Comments (5)

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