Category - brett ullman

How to have a Yearly Family Meeting

I had the chance to do the Arrow Leadership Program a number of years ago. At that time the Director was Carson Pue. In one of his sessions Carson challenged us to have a yearly General Family Meeting. I remember sitting in class thinking what a weird idea this was to have a business meeting with your family. He talked about how his sons felt that they had a say in what went on with the family because of these meetings.

I came home from Arrow and that year decided to have our first “Ullman Family Meeting”. My wife and I put an agenda on the fridge and asked the kids (Zoe-7 and Ben-6) to write down anything they wanted to talk about. We got to the day of the family meeting and the list was … blank. We had our meeting and talked about different things but the kids were not really into it. At the end of the meeting we told the kids to celebrate we would go to any restaurant they want. Can you guess where 2 young kids wanted to go? McDonalds. After a really bad dinner I said to Dawn that we need to be done with our family meetings. She told me that we should try one more time.

The next year, in the last week of Aug we decided to try it again. This time the agenda on the fridge was filled top to bottom. Item #1 they wanted a new baby brother or sister and #2 they wanted a new dog. I realized that we were now talking about real issues. That year when we asked them where we wanted to go my daughter said “The Keg” (its a nice steakhouse in case you don’t know). Things were looking up.

Every year since we have done our yearly family meetings and gone out to the Keg. This year our meeting was a little late but we had it last night.12003324_10156135273130093_6768245977912650101_n

So what does a Family Meeting look like. It is quite simple it is a time to talk about anything that people want to talk about. Here are some areas that my family talks about:

  1. Vacations – are we having one? where will we go? if we are having one we know we will have to be careful with money throughout the year
  2. Activities – what are the kids going to take part in this year? My daughter is going to take dance lessons and my son is going to do baseball. Both want to ski and snowboard as well
  3. School – we talk about how the year will look. Both of my kids talked about how they want to get straight A’s on their reports card. We talked about how they might go about doing that.
  4. Chores – we talked about how we need help around the house and have a list of certain things the kids are responsible for (cleaning their own rooms, clearing dishes off table, emptying the dishwasher etc)
  5. Meals – Zoe and Ben are going to start cooking 1 meal a week with either Dawn or me.
  6. Faith – For us we are a family that is going to try and follow living a Christian life. We talked about how we are going to go to church (which service early or late?), Read our Bibles etc
  7. Camp – my kids want to go to camp again next year so we talked about which weeks this will be.
  8. Birthday’s – are we still having parties? How much will we spend on them? Dawn decided this year that for her present she wants to go to Riply’s Aquarium in Toronto with the family.
  9. Halloween – Are the kids still going out? If so which costume do they want?
  10. Spending Freeze – this year we decided to do 1 month spending freeze (after the Keg dinner). No spending on anything except the necessities for 1 month.
  11. Any purchases we need to do as a family? New bikes, clothes, shoes, different foods?

The goal is that my kids feel that they have a voice in the family. A few years ago we were voting on our family vacation. Dawn, Zoe and Ben voted to go to Mexico. I voted to go anywhere in the world but Mexico. As we landed in Mexico a few months later I think my kids realized that they do have a real say in what we do as a family.

Last year was another major discussion. Do we get a dog? This was on the agenda for the past 3 years. Ben was willing to give up the vacation to get a dog. Our kids needed to understand that getting a dog has lasting impact to the family. Last year we decided that this was something that we were doing to do. Bailey (our English Bulldog) has been with us since Nov of last year.


There is also a time at the end of the meeting for anyone to bring up anything that is going on that they want to talk about.

Being honest before we started our family meetings I thought it was a really dumb idea. It has ended up being an idea that has had profound implications in our family. It helps us to look strategically and intentionally at who we are as a family and to agree on how we do things as we move forward.

My challenge to you would be to have your own Family Meeting. It does not matter how old or young your kids are it is never to late to start.

Side Note: All families are different. You might be a family that has lost a spouse due to death, you might be divorced or separated. You CAN still have a family meeting. It might just be you and your kid. Some of you might not have kids. Then have a family meeting with just you and your spouse. Some of you might be single. This might sound weird but if you are single once a year sit down and strategically look at the year coming up and how you want to live it.

Love to hear about how your own family meetings go.

Project: Filming of for Parents & Students

With all of the conversation on the new sex education curriculum there is still very little talk on how we as parents can help our kids navigate this tough conversation. For those of us coming from a Christian Worldview we are trying to connect our faith with this conversation as well. How do we as parents help our kids connect their faith and this conversation on sex?  I presently have over 200 emails from parents saying they have no idea where to start with this discussion. Over the past year I have worked hard to redesign my presentation called to help empower and equip parents in this conversation with their kids. The talk is ready and I am speaking it at churches and conferences but as a speaker I can only reach so many audiences. Worlds Apart wants to make a significant impact to prepare Canadian Christians to have a more clear voice in this discussion and there is no bigger water cooler talk than this one at present.

What I would like to do this fall(2015) is to film this talk. The cost for the filming, editing, printing of DVD/BlueRay, setting up of digital downloads, and a Trailer will be around $12,000. As a small non profit our revenue is not large enough to apply for most grants from foundations which leaves me with asking for donations from people and businesses.

So I am asking for your help:

  1. Are you able to help donate some money towards this project? This could be someone donating $20 or someone who wants to fund the entire project.
  2. Do you know of any businesses that might be able to help out a project like this? Does your place of work make donations to non-profits?
  3. Do you know of any foundations that accept applications for smaller faith based non profits?
  4. Do you have any other ideas of how I can raise the funds for this project?

If you are willing to make a donation here is a link to our Charity page on CanadaHelps (Click Here). They will process your donation and give you a tax receipt. You can also send a cheque if that is what you prefer. I thank you in advance for any support you can give.

Thanks for your help and if you have any questions please let me know.

Brett Ullman

“A Voice of Empowerment for Youth and their Families”



A Church Service struggling with anxiety

It has been about 4 months since I have been able to sit in a full church service. My anxiety has been high for this last season of life. I was asked the other week what my anxiety feels like when I have to leave. Last week I decided to journal a full service.
My goal in this is to let people who are also struggling with anxiety know that they are not alone. My second goal is to help people understand a little more about anxiety.

8:30 AM:
Here I am in church again
30 minutes early so that my anxiety can get a chance to slowly calm down
Pray that God will grant me peace in my body and mind
Look around at the people around me
Feeling dizzy again
Church starts
Music begins
Say to myself my goal today is to just survive the music portion of the service without leaving
Take a step forward and start holding tight onto the seat in front of me
Keep breathing
Feeling shaky all over
Remind myself to deep breath in stomach and not chest
Remind myself I am ok
Still don’t feel ok
Tingles moving through my arms and legs and around my back
Start to wonder if I need to leave
Anxiety seems to grow for no reason
Take a drink of water
 Take some big breaths
Remind myself I am ok and anxiety is just feelings
Music ends, I survived
My mind questions if surviving is good enough. Not really the goal of a musical worship set
Feel frustrated that this is the situation I am in
I am a 44 year old man who’s only goal is to survive 4 worship songs in church
Remind myself this is my struggle, the thorn in my side
Remind myself I am doing everything I can about it
Time to stand and shake hands
Quickly wonder if I will be dizzy when I stand
Stand anyway
Sit down again
Glad to sit
Preaching starts
Everything is really quiet now
I feel anxiety and panic beginning to grow in my stomach
New goal
Survive the sermon
Suddenly feel sad that this is my goal
Open up my bible on my iPad
Look up at preacher
Wave of dizziness sets in
Should I leave
Shift in my seat
Cross my legs
Panic is rising
Heart is beating fast
Tell myself it will pass
Tell myself again it will pass
Nothing really passes
Still feel horrible
Take a drink
Try and concentrate on what is being said
Wish I could concentrate on the sermon and not the conversation in my own head
In my anxious state hard time focusing on the preacher
People in the audience laugh at something preacher says
Feeling envy at people around me.
Wish I could laugh
Wish I was someone else
Tell myself to stop going down the rabbit hole in my mind
Sermon finished

2 frames of mind after a morning like this:

1st Frame of mine

  1. Wishing I could enjoy a church service
  2. Wishing it was not so hard
  3. Wishing I did not envy people around me
  4. Feeling frustrated how my life has become
  5. I don’t know how I will survive this

2nd Frame of mine

  1. I came to church
  2. I talked to some people
  3. I made a choice not to just stay at home.
  4. I will survive this


Consequences from my 30’s: Celebrating in my 40’s

As a Physical and Health Education major and a personal trainer throughout University it was kind of embarrassing to find myself in a place where my scale hit 272 lbs around 2 1/2 years ago. Now part of this can be blamed on my sedentary lifestyle while I was at home dealing with my anxiety and sleep issues but much of it was to blame from my lifestyle throughout my 30’s. My 30’s were busy building up my speaking ministry, lots of travel, lots of work, lots of bad choices in restaurants, lots of second helpings during mealtime and the busier my life got less and less exercise.

Yesterday when I hit my scale and it said 231.8 I was pretty excited. My goal was to lose 40 lbs and then I would reevaluate. There have been a number of people who have asked me over the past few months how I was losing the weight. Perfect question for a little blog. Here is what I did.

Diet and Exercise. That’s it. No specific diet or specific exercise routine. Just watched what I ate and exercise daily (if I could)

DietI made simple sustainable changes in my diet

  1. I stopped drinking calories. No more pop (soda for my U.S. friends), no more orange juice, no more apple juice etc.
  2. I stopped having a second helping of any meal. This was always hardest at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving
  3. I began to have 1 smoothie a day to replace a meal (usually breakfast ). I bought a Magic Bullet which has been awesome. You can have hundreds of combinations of smoothies. My favourite is Protein powder, fruits (your choice), Progressive VegeGreens & PhytoBerry powder, Cocoa (this makes it taste like a chocolate milkshake), flax seeds, omega 3 liquid, yogurt and sometimes a banana. Below is a picture of what I would usually put into each smoothie. It is important for me to note that my smoothies were for health as well as weight loss. I choose to add those healthy items to my smoothie for my wellness.
  4. I began to try and have 1 salad as a daily meal (usually lunch). See image below. Every salad was different. Lots of veges and always protein included ( chicken, egg etc)
  5. Eating out at restaurants I always blamed as a reason but this was really a choice for me. When I am on the road speaking, I now eat pita’s or schwarma’s when I can. If I am stuck out at a burger joint I would have a burger, side salad and a water.There are lots of better choices at restaurants.  It is still hard to make the right choice when I am out, sometimes I crave fries so I will allow myself what I call a handful and stick to that.
  6. I cut down on evening snacks before bed
  7. I cut down on my consumption of bread. When I have eggs I now only have 1 piece of whole wheat bread with it. Not 2 or 3
  8. I drank lots of water
  9. For snacks I would have fruit, nuts (small handful of almonds or sunflower seeds)
  10. I switched margarine back to butter
  11. I cut out all Aspartame from diet

ExerciseI try and exercise daily

  1. I took up running when I was 38. I continue to love my runs (2-3 times per week). Below is a screen shot of the running app I use called Endomondo. I also bought a heart rate monitor
  2. I started using an app on my phone called MOVES. It tracks how many steps I get a day. The minimum you should have is 5000 and the suggested is 10,000. Some days when I was working from home I would only get 1200 steps a day. When I was out I took the stairs anytime I could. I would park farther away at a mall or grocery store so I could add in more steps. Little changes add up over time. Below is a screenshot from yesterday.
  3. The days I was not running I added in weights. I was using the 2 weight routines from the P90X workouts. I also had a few other stretching and cardio routines I would add in to change up the routine.

Cheating: I also cheat in my diet and exercise. Last night I had a burger and fries for dinner (with water). Sometimes I take a day off of exercising. You can treat yourself once in a while, just not everyday.

For me these changes have been ones that are sustainable in my life. It is a new healthy lifestyle that I hope to continue.  I have set a new goal of 220 for my weight. I don’t really know what the perfect weight it as everyone one is different. My goals now are to keep up my healthy lifestyle. Being a guy who is 6’6″ tall I think that around 200 might be perfect for me.

Nietzsche once talked about for anything great to happen there needs to be a “Long obedience in the same direction” So what can you change in your life today? What is one thing you can switch to move you more towards a health sustainable lifestyle?

Love to hear in the comments what has been helping you in your journey towards a more healthy lifestyle. What has worked for you? What has not?

The Porn Project: Reboot Challenge

Porn: So much struggle and addiction and so little answers, solutions and freedom. One of the best discussions for those of us coming from a Christian Worldview would be from a blog from Tim Challies called 7 Reasons to Stop Looking at Porn Right Now. He goes through each of the reasons below

  • The Cost to your Soul
  • The Cost to your Neighbour
  • The Cost to your Family
  • The Cost to your Mission
  • The Cost to your Witness
  • The Cost to your Saviour

The only one I might add to this list is the Cost to your own BodyAs I am working through my research for a talk on pornography called “The Porn Project” I have been fascinated to find an entire online community (not faith based) equipping, supporting and empowering people (men and women) to stop watching pornography. It is often called the “NoFap” movement which is not a Christian movement at all. In case you are wondering what Fap is, it is a bit of Internet vernacular for the act of self-love (masturbation). So the NoFap movement is asking people to stop looking at all forms of porn and stop masturbating. People often say to me that their porn addiction is not hurting anyone. From Tim’s blog it is hurting some of the largest areas of our life. What seems to be missing along side these thoughts in our Christian community is the realization that there are also physiological issues with long term masturbation to pornography from Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction, Sexual Exhaustion etc. Many people I talk to seem to think that these physical issues are a joke and are not true.

Below are a few videos for you to watch. It takes such courage to open up and speak as these people do about such a private struggle. Please remember this are not Christian groups so you may find some rough language.

As I travel I talk to men and women nightly who talk about addictions to porn.  I have hundreds of emails of people struggling in their Christian faith due to issues with porn. I have heard from a over 100 women who have told me that their marriages were destroyed from their husbands addictions to pornography. Pastors tell me it is an epidemic in their youth groups and throughout adults in their churches.

While I am finishing my research on this talk I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find 100 people who would want to take part in a small experiment. Rather than talking about all the ways porn has hurt us I would love to see how getting rid of porn in our lives helps us, especially those of us coming from a Christian Perspective. I am open to people who are not faith based to take this challenge. Love to here your thoughts as well.

So here is the experiment:

I am looking for 100 people who are interested in taking a 60 day (2 months) challenge to be completely porn free in your life. 

To some of you 60 days might seem like an eternity. I would respond and say that if you cannot go 60 days without porn or sexualized media in your life than you probably can at least acknowledge that you are struggling with this. Also, during this journey if you fail, then try and think why you failed (were you alone too much, tired, angry etc). learn from your setback, and try and get back to the journey.

This video gives some great advice on how to do this.

Practical stuff: I will NEVER be posting your names anywhere ever. I am interested in your journey goes:

If you are interested in being part of this journey you just need to let me know. Send me an email to or hit me up on any social media. Then as you are going through your journey keep a small journal. Write down anything you think might be interesting. Some questions are below. You can send me thoughts at the end or anytime in the middle. If anyone worries that someone might see your email. It is only going to me and I will never share this information with anyone. If you are really worried make a fake gmail account and email me from that. The goal is not to shame anyone but to look at a journey like this together.

Here are some questions I would love to know. You can add any more you like.

  1. How hard was the decision to stop? Where you able to stop? Did you relapse?
  2. What kinds of things did you have to change?
  3. Did you have any withdrawal affects? What were they? When in your journey did you have them?
  4. Thinking of the areas that Tim talked about in his blog. Tell me how if affected your: Soul – did your faith change?
  5. Neighbour – Did you thoughts change about the people in the videos? Your neighbours? Did you look at woman (or men) different when you saw them?
  6. Did it change your engagement at church?
  7. How did the reboot affect your relationship with your family? As a parents did you feel freedom that your family would not find pornography on your computer etc?
  8. Did you find you engaged more with the areas you feel called to be involved in? Volunteer?
  9. Did you find that your witness changed? Did you feel like less of a fraud?
  10. If you are married how did your relationship change with your wife or husband?
  11. Anything else that you found in your journey to be noteworthy.

So what does this journey include. Anything sexual. That includes looking at sexualized images on social media (some of you might have to delete people you are creeping through their photos on Facebook or Instagram), all pornographic websites, TV and Movies with nudity and overt sexuality and any other areas from your thought life (fantasy or remembering past sexual encounters) to anything else that would turn you on sexually (I am not including regular sexual intimacy within marriage).

For Christians it should be enough for us to stop from a Theological standpoint (Scripture) but I think it will become very real very quick if you take this challenge that porn might have its hold on you. Many guys online (see websites #7  (Your Brain on Porn) and #8 (Your Brain Rebalanced) at the end of this blog talk about brutal side affects after Dopamine is no longer being drenched onto your pleasure centres in your brain. Many of the comments on the side effects are within just days of stopping. All I can say is why not try and live 60 days without porn and see how it goes.

During this time I would also encourage you to spend more time with God in prayer and Scripture reading. I would also encourage you to exercise, eat better and get lots of sleep. You might also need to talk to a counsellor to help you walk through this.

It would be awesome if you could share this blog around through email, other blogs or on social media. Thanks

I will leave you with this awesome poem for your journey:

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk
The Romance of Self-Discovery

If you are looking for other great resources there is so much great information on all of the websites below. Please take some time to go through them. If there are any great articles, books or other resources please send them to me and I will add them to this list.

Websites / Articles / Blogs

  1. – one of the best sites. So much here
  2. Fight the New Drug: Dropping knowledge on the harmful effects of porn – Click Here
  3. Pornolescence (Tim Challies) – Click Here
  4. DoggieHeadTilt – Rx for ED? – Click Here
  5. Is Pornography changing how teens view sex? Toronto Star – Click Here
  6. 7 Good Reasons to Stop Looking at Porn right now – Tim Challies – Click Here
  7. Your Brain on Porn (non faith-based) – Click Here
  8. This is your Brain on Porn (Michael John Cusick) Click Here

YouTube – Video

  1. The Great Porn Experiment: Gary Wilson – TedxGlasgow – Click Here
  2. The Basics of Rebooting (non faith-based) – Click Here  **blunt, rough but true language **
  1. FULL STORY: Generation X-Rated (Global 16×9) (** non faith-based) – Click Here
  2. The Science of Pornography Addiction – Click Here
  3. Why I stopped watching porn: Ran Gavrieli – TEDxJaffa Click Here

Healing / Recovery / Solutions

  1. The Porn Free Family Plan (Tim Challies) – Click Here **this is one of the best articles on this for any parent**
  2. – 30-day online workshops (my favourite resource here) – Click Here

Filtering and Accountability

  1. Open DNS – Click Here **I use this**
  2. Covenant Eyes – Click Here **I use this**
  3. NetNanny – We Protect Families – Click Here
  4. K9 Web Protection – Click Here
  5. McAfee Family Protection – Click Here


  1. Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our Way of Healing – Jay Stringer (Amazon Canada)(Amazon US)
  2. Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are sick of Porn – Tim Challies (Amazon Canada) (Amazon US)
  3. Pure Eyes: A Man’s Guide to Sexual Integrity – Craig Gross (Amazon Canada) (Amazon US)
  4. Your Brain on Porn – Gary Wilson (Amazon Canada)(Amazon US)
  5. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Amazon Canada)(Amazon US)
  6. A Christian Woman’s Guide to Breaking Free from Pornography: It’s not just a guys problem. – Shelly Hitz(Amazon Canada)(Amazon US)
  7. Pure Heart – A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Integrity – Shellie R. Warren (Amazon Canada)(Amazon US)