Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

To Brave the Hope

The blue tag swirled down the streetlight pole like a sloppy signature, which was exactly what it was. I hadn't noticed it before and had no idea how long it had been there. Knowing me and my sometimes marginal peripheral awareness, it could've been there for weeks, even though the streetlight was directly in front of our house.

The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) was delivering a Kidpower workshop that morning and our daughters and me had just finished a packed morning of soccer and the grocery store.

After unloading the groceries, I filled a bucket with soap and water and a new scrubbing sponge intent on cleaning up the graffiti. Before I went outside with the bucket, I told my daughters what I was going to do.

"Girls, I'm going to clean off the poll out front, okay?"

"Why?" Beatrice asked.

"Because someone painted on it when they shouldn't have. It's called graffiti and I want to clean it up."

"Okay," Beatrice said. Bryce was too engrossed in her iPad to comment.

"That's very helpful of you, Dad," Bea added.

I smiled. "Why, thank you, Bea."

"You're welcome."

It was a glorious day outside, a warm fall day bathed in cerulean blue sky. Heavenly even, like a day from the Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep comedy Defending Your Life, where everyday was 72 degrees, there were all-you-can-eat buffets where you'd never gain weight, bowling alleys, comedy clubs and more. When in fact, this was purgatory in the movie, the weigh station to heaven and hell.

I conjured the silly 1991 rom-com because the world had become more violently absurd than ever. A bizzaro pre-apocalyptic world where the super heroes aren't so super anymore, much less heroes. A disrespectful world where others deface and tag in the name of marking property that'll never be theirs. A wag-the-dog world teetering on the edge of civil wars where fake news is real and real news is fake. A world full of splintered agendas and raging biases where our leaders compromise principles and laws and bastardized religion for partisan short-term gains. A world where the worst inside all of us is celebrated because an angry few feel they've been legitimately oppressed as others had truly been for hundreds of years. And a world where violence against women and sexual assault are compartmentalized, rationalized and diminished in the face of overwhelming bittersweet awareness.

All this swirled inside me while I scrubbed the blue tag off the pole. Except that it wasn't coming off. At all. I even scraped at it with a putty knife and nothing. I started sweating and decided to try window cleaner on it. Still nothing. We didn't have anything else stronger, so I stood helpless starting at the pole. A neighbor drove by and then stopped in front of our driveway.

She asked what was going on and I explained the graffiti and that I couldn't get it off. She said they had some stronger "goo off" stuff back at the house and that I could use it. A few minutes after she drove away, another two neighbors were walking back from the nearby farmer's market. They too had some stronger "goo off" stuff and went to retrieve it.

Once I applied the stuff with steel wool the blue tag came right off. Like magic. After that I helped our neighbor remove more graffiti from a one-way sign on our street.

When the Mama got home from her workshop, I told her about the blue tag I found and that I cleaned it off.

"Thank you, Sweetie," she said.

"I only just noticed it this morning. How long had it been there on the pole?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"For at least I week. I was going to tell you about it."

A week, I thought. It could've been months for all I knew.

Sigh.

I know there will be more graffiti tags on streetlight poles and one-way signs. And I know we'll always be able to clean them off. But it's gotten harder to take the high road beyond the graffiti when the low road is so riddled with trolls and power predators these days.

When I shared that sentiment online a few days before the blue tag cleaning, a friend of mine answered:

Stay positive Kevin, people love that about you.

I smiled as I thought about it. I am positive most of the time. I am hopeful most of the time. But I'm even more thankful for the fact that there are many of us who are willing to take the high road, to remain positive, to make a difference regardless of our differences by taking action for the better however incremental or big, to ultimately prevent further social injustice and the literal moral unmooring of America.

I'm thankful for my wife who inspires me daily to brave the hope and put it in action, and my daughters as well who fuel my hope for the future. And I'm thankful for family and friends who inspire the same, that there is light and love and so many more of us willing to embody them both.

Right on and amen. Bring on that high road, please. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Most of Us Together

Number 9 ran off the field at halftime and yelled at me.

"Dad, why didn't you take me out earlier! I'm really tired!"

She panted after every other word. Her face glowed red. Her hair was wet and matted to her forehead and the sides of her face.

"Great job, Beatrice," I said. "You are being aggressive and going after that ball!"

"But I'm tired!"

I patted her on the back. "I know, so take a break and drink some water. You're doing awesome."

"Thank you," she said. Then she was past it, eating fresh strawberries, the last halftime snack of our final game.

In the next moment, one of the team parents approached me. Her daughter was sick and had already thrown up twice on our sidelines. But that's not why she came over to talk.

"You know, you should tell the girls they can help our goalie and not just stand around and watch," she said.

I took a "zen" beat inside my head before I spoke. This wasn't an unreasonable request; she had the best intentions. In fact, the parents of all our players were really good all season, one of whom was my assistant coach, another one who also helped, and a few others who had soccer experience and made great suggestions throughout the season.

But I took a "zen" beat because it had been a long season. Sure, we weren't supposed to keep score, this is recreational soccer, and I had stopped keeping score early on when we lost every game by a significant number of goals. Game after game. Week after week. For someone who grew up highly competitive -- me -- and coming off of a winning season last year, it had been a long season this year. And yet I tried to keep my head up, because even with this last game, there was always a next time.

I put my hand on the parent's shoulder. "I understand. I do. I just want them to score for the first time in this final game. Or just pass consistently to one another. Or just dribble and drive the ball down the field. Or just kick the ball straight and farther than five yards. You know, those little things."

She smiled at my mild sarcasm and attempt at humor. "I know, but they really could help their goalie out so they don't keep getting the score run up on them."

Sigh.

"Got it. Thank you," I said.

"Coach, you just stepped in the throw up," one of the other players pointed out to me.

I looked down.

Sigh.

Maybe it was me. My job as coach for a U10 recreational team was to help them learn some soccer skills and some teamwork, regardless of having boys or girls, and in this case, it was my third year coaching our oldest daughter and an all-girl teams. But from the first practice to this very last game, it felt like some of the girls just didn't really want to play soccer. That they only wanted to goof off with each other instead. That's okay. They're kids.

Maybe it was me. There had been a lot of work travel this season for me and I missed some practices and one of our games. And then there was my hospitalization and disruptive infection that scared the bejesus out of me and the Mama (what I affectionately call my wife).

Maybe it was me, because as the season went on, it got tougher to inspire myself, much less the girls. Are they getting any of this? I thought again and again. After each game the Mama countered my fuming by encouraging me to keep encouraging them. I had the same conversations with my coaches and they encouraged me to stay positive and stay the course.

"They are playing better today, Coach," my assistant coach said.

"Yep," I said. "They are."

That's the thing -- positive improvements aren't always evident -- they are more subtle than that, like the incremental slow-growth of a coral reef. One minute there's nothing but barren shallows, and then 10,000 minutes later there's a layer of lovely colors that are alive and well.

And in the final game, there were all the lovely colors:


  • Better dribbling for some.
  • Better change-of-direction and ball control for others.
  • Better passing to teammates for others.
  • Better aggressive going after the ball for many of them.
  • Even better defense helping the goalie keep the ball away from our goal.


And while the number of shots we got at the opponents' goal were again few and far between, there were those who played hard and seemed inspired to do so, had the "fire" as my assistant coach put it, like they really wanted to play well, individually and together, encouraging each other to keep going, even for the few who didn't want to.

Yes, it had been a long season, and besides being her coach and her dad, I was especially proud of our oldest, Beatrice, as she had truly improved over this last season (and the two seasons before this one). She wanted to play, liked to play, went after the ball and got it done. She even wanted to practice kicking the ball around in the backyard, and before this last game asked to play in the winter recreational league. I never thought I'd see that happen.

After the last game we had a team party, and as we were all leaving, one of my other players walked up to me and game me a hug.

"Thank you, Coach," she said.

I hugged her back and said, "No, thank you."

One after another most of the girls thanked me. One even wrote me a nice note. Maybe in the end it wasn't me; it was most of us together. And that should make us all feel like winners.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Be Part of the Solution

One minute I was happily serving drinks, and the next minute I blacked out. And I don’t think the Mickey was meant for me.

Neither of us did. A few years before our oldest Beatrice was born, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I attended a coworker’s Halloween party. Dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia, we volunteered to help run one of the backyard bars.

We were having a lot of fun chatting it up with dozens of different people dressed in all sorts of great costumes, most of whom we didn’t know. The Mama was a much better barkeep than me since she’d worked in restaurants over the years and did some bartending. She helped me mix the drinks and I mostly stayed with serving beer and wine.

Maybe two hours or so into the party, I felt wasted. Literally shitfaced. And I shouldn’t have been. I’d only had a few glasses of wine.

“Are you okay?” the Mama asked.

Thankfully the crowd had thinned at our bar, because the world spun way too fast for me at that point.

“I feel really drunk,” I said.

“Wow, you're slurring. You haven’t had that much to drink. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t feel good,” I said. Although I probably said, I stone fee goo.

“I have to go to the bathroom now.”

I af to go to da bamoom now.

We went to the bathroom and then went back to bartending. A while later it was time to go and that was when the world became an acrylic swirl of black and yellow light like Van Gogh’s Night Sky. I barely remember the Mama putting me in our car and driving us home. Then I vaguely remember stumbling into our house. She knew something was definitely wrong at that point.

The next morning we reviewed the night. I had a killer headache and there was no way it was just from the wine I drank. After some research online, we agreed that something had been put into my drink, probably what’s known as a rufie, the date-rape drug.

But again, we don’t think it was meant for me. Probably another woman. Whenever it happened, however it happened, and whoever it was intended for, I happened to be the unlucky victim of a drug-induced blackout. Thank God my wife was there to take care of me. Again, most of the party goers were strangers to us, so it could have been anybody.

After telling my coworker about it, she was mortified and said she’d look into it. These people were her and her husband’s friends, and sure enough, she uncovered someone they knew who had tried to drug someone at a previous party, but denied having anything to do with what happened to me. Without proof, there was nothing she could do about it, or we could do about.

What if I was a woman and the intended victim? What would’ve happened to me? Would I have been sexually assaulted? Would it have been someone I knew, or a stranger?

Today I’m an appointed volunteer on the Santa Cruz Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women (CPVAW) and part of our mission is to partner with local law enforcement and collect data on a variety of CA penal codes to better understand the nature of sexual assaults, occurring within Santa Cruz, and distribute this information to our community. Some of our findings from 2014-2016 of non-juvenile cases to be released soon include:


  • In 40% of the incidences of reported rape or attempted rape, the suspects were acquaintances of the victims.
  • 86% of the victims reporting sexual assault are Santa Cruz City locals.
  • Women between the ages of 18-29 make up 45% of the victims reporting sexual assaults.
  • Suspects were 59% locals, 32% unknown and 9% visitors to the area.
  • Alcohol was involved in 42% of the cases reported between 2014-16.


One of these days our girls will be young adults and may go to parties like this, whether locally or at college or wherever they end up living. Wherever that will be, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Mix in alcohol and powerful sedative drugs and you've got a very dangerous combination for potential victims. We can't be there all the time to protect our girls, but we can educate them to be aware and protect themselves.

The work we do at CPVAW has a broader mission of ending sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the City of Santa Cruz through prevention, programs, and public policy. October has also been domestic violence awareness month, and 1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime and an average of 3 women die every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. Growing up, my sister and I witnessed my mother suffer continuous verbal and physical abuse, another reason why I speak up about it. To give voice to those who need help.

Recently on Facebook a friend asked why men don't speak up about the #metoo movement (the sharing on social media by other women who have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted), and also why so many men stand by and let harassment and sexual assault happen (and anything related to violence against women).

My response was simple:

I have stood by. I have called out. I have harassed. I have been harassed. I have never sexually assaulted anyone. I have been sexually assaulted

My wife and I have two young daughters who we are empowering to be strong and be part of the solution. As parents, we all have an ultimate responsibility to instill in both girls and boys their own sense of personal responsibility, empathy, compassion, to be safe with their bodies and their minds, to not react inappropriately and violently, and to encourage all of the above with others. We need to be clear with our children that violence against women and girls, men or boys, including sexual assault, harassment, bullying or anything related is never okay.

So let's be part of the solution, today.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Just Another Saturday

I just needed to pee when the Mama called to me from downstairs.

"Kevin, where are you? I need to talk to you about something important right now."

Her voice sounded off, odd, like she was uncomfortable about something. There was also an accusatory tone, as if I should be reading her mind to understand whatever the heck was going on as she bounded up the stairs. What did I do? I thought. Wait, nothing. All I knew is that we were getting ready to go to Bryce's soccer game.

"Kevin, where are you?"

"Going to the bathroom!" I called back at her.

That's when I heard a helicopter overhead. Then a plane fly by. Then the helicopter again. Then another plane. The Mama, what I lovingly call my wife, came into our bathroom where I was.

"There's a fire in Moore Creek down the street. We have to go now."

The "go now" part stung, as if the Mama had wagged her finger in front of me and then poked me hard in the chest. Her very being was all resolve and purpose betrayed only by the fear in her eyes.

"Sweetie, we have to pack some things and go," she said. "Our neighbor said they'll be closing the road soon."

We heard multiple firetrucks and police cars scream by us down the highway. The helicopter and planes flew overhead again. Moore Creek was right at the end of our street, where other friends of ours lived, whose children went to school with our girls. The property behind us lined with eucalyptus trees had ground cover as dry as kindling and most likely ready to go up in flames if the fire reached it. One of the eucalyptus had fallen into a neighbor's house over the last rainy winter, and when we saw the two feet of tree debris all over the ground soaking wet, we knew at some point it would dry out and be quite combustible.

"I have to pee first!" was all I could say to the Mama. Because I did, before I did anything else. Then I could get moving.

She went into our closet and came out with our home safe, full of important family paperwork among other things. It's a heavy little sucker, and yet, it was if she were holding a newborn close to her chest.

"Okay, that's fine," she said. "Then help me get some things together. We have to go before the road closes."

"Wait, have you heard anything on the news? Do we have to evacuate? What do we know? Let's not overreact if we don't know exactly what's happening."

"I only know that we have to go," she said.

That was enough for me.

Ten minutes earlier it was just another Saturday. Soccer games and errands and family time in between. Now there was a fire down the street, how serious we didn't really know yet. We do get local Nixle alerts, but there had been none yet notifying us of anything including whether or not we should evacuate. And considering all the wildfires north of us in Santa Rosa, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes, we weren't going to take any chances.

Because what do you take when you don't know how much time you have, when you may not have any time at all? We have disaster plans, at least frameworks to work within in order to get out, to meet up elsewhere if separated. Extra food and water in the garage if trapped at home. And so on. I carried the safe downstairs.

"Sweetie, get the suitcase for me," the Mama called down.

"I will. I'm going to pack the computers and devices for us."

"Yes, please do."

The girls had already been calmly tasked to pack a few things they wanted to bring. They were stuffed animals and a few toys, of course.

"Is our house going to burn down?" Beatrice asked.

"No, honey, but we need to be safe and go somewhere else for a while just until the firefighters put the fire out."

While the Mama kept packing I started to load our car. The Cal Fire helicopter and planes kept circling and dropping water on the mountainside and I could see the smoke for the first time, although I couldn't smell it. More first responders raced down the highway with sirens blaring. Many people were outside including our neighbors, some of whom walked down the street to investigate further. A Nixle alert did appear on my phone, but only to say the highway was now closed due to a fire and to stay tuned for more updates. Nothing about evacuation.

After getting everything into the car except the suitcase, our neighbor called us and said she and her son were at the end of the street and the firefighters had just put the fire out. But another Nixle alert told me that the highway and part of our road would be closed for awhile. At least we were safe for now and the firefighters had quickly contained the blaze.

"What about the guinea pigs?" the girls had asked.

Prior to knowing the fire was more or less out, the question of what to do with the guinea pigs came up. Their cage would fit in the car, that wasn't a problem, but if we ended up stranded somewhere, there was no way we could keep them in the car. It would be too hot. And the eventual smell of course. Maybe we could drop them off at a friend's house. Or maybe we just couldn't take them with us. Thankfully we didn't have to end up making that call.

Because what do you take when you don't know how much time you have, when you may not have any time at all? Your family, maybe your pets if realistic, and a few critical items like important paperwork, medicines if any, computers and/or devices, some clothes and toiletries. Everything else has to stay -- and you have to go. Now. While we packed our stuff I remembered looking at all our family pictures hanging on the wall and thinking I have all of these digitally, so we can print them again. 

We did end up going on with our day as planned, but it felt off, odd, like the tone of the Mama's voice when she first called to me upstairs only 30 minutes earlier. Should we have stayed and waited to ensure things didn't flare up again and that we'd really have to evacuate? Once we were away from our house without the stuff we packed, there would be no way to get back if things went south, and everything could've been lost.

But it wasn't. It was just another Saturday. God bless those who have lost.

The next morning the Mama said to me, "You know what?"

"What?"

"We forgot the key to the safe when we packed everything up."

"Again with the keys," I said.

The Mama laughed. "But it's not like we couldn't have broken into it. It's not that great of a safe."

"That's comforting," I said.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Of All The Things

“Always take a big bite
It's such a gorgeous sight
To see you in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It's Friday
I'm in love…”

— The Cure, Friday I’m in Love


The song rocked sweetly in my head as it played overhead while we walked back to our hotel after some shopping. It’s Friday, I’m in love. A week of successful work travel behind me, and still on the mend, and now my wife was with me in Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate our 20-year anniversary of the day we met on the beach (14 years of marriage and the same date). The song was one of many special ones to us we had put on our wedding soundtrack to celebrate Friday date nights.

We walked hand in hand, and then my wife, who I affectionately call the Mama, said, “When we get back to the room we’ll call the girls.”

"Yes, absolutely."

One of our dear friends was watching our girls for the weekend at our house, and no sooner than the Mama had finished saying “the girls,” we were both texted.

I pulled my phone out to read the text. It was from that dear friend watching our girls. It was right after school, so she had picked them up and was bringing them back to our house.

Hi, out your house. Didn’t find a house key in either backpack.

“Sweetie, did you give Laura our key?”

No response. She was reading the text, too.

“Sweetie?”

“No, no I didn’t. I totally forgot.”

“Are you serious?”

The usual edge I get when things go south slashed away at the air between us.

“I can’t remember everything, Kevin. There was so much to do before I left. I just forget to give her the keys.”

I took a beat and a breath, still mentally slashing away in the air.

“There’s a spare in the garage,” the Mama went on.

“No, there’s not," I said.

“Yes, the one by the furnace.”

I shook my head. “That was the one to get into the office and guest room through the garage, but not for the house."

The Mama asked Laura to look for the key, but it wasn’t there.

She then looked at me and asked, “Wasn’t there a key in the office, too?”

“No, we took both keys out years out. There’s nothing out there anymore.”

“Then we’ll have to call a locksmith," she said without missing a beat.

More slashing at the air. “Are you kidding me? That could be hundreds of dollars. No way!”

“Then how are they going to get in?”

“Can they spend the night at Laura’s and we’ll FedEx our key now? Every casino with a conference center has a FedEx office.”

The Mama thought about it.

“Maybe.”

She kept talking with our friend Laura on the phone and I just kept on stewing. I knew my wife had a lot going on with work and the girls, taking care of me before I traveled, and the fact that I’d already been gone for nearly a week.

But of all the things, the house key? Ugh. I mean, you can forget toothpaste and underwear, but the house key for your babysitter? It wasn’t exactly like the movie Home Alone, but I still failed to reign in my discontent.

“I get forgetting other things to do before you left, but the house key? How could you forget to give the house key to Laura?”

That did it. Too much push.

“Sweetie, stop it. It’s done. I forgot, okay? Nothing we can do about that now!"

We both sent quiet. Then she spoke up again.

"What about our neighbor? Could he get in and open the door for her and the girls?”

I always love how she moves on immediately identifying solutions. I still have to extinguish the stewing before I move.

“Is the upstairs bedroom window still open?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s open.”

“Then most likely, yes, he can get in.”

Our neighbor had been up on his own two-story roof more than once, so I knew he could he could get to our window that way as well. We've never had to do it, and we've never tried, because the Mama has always said the second story is off limits anyway due to, you know, gravity. I called our neighbor and he confirmed he could do it, just not until later in the day. After that, we both felt better knowing that at least they’d get into the house eventually.

“If they can’t get in, we’re going to have to call a locksmith then," the Mama said as we continued to walk back to our hotel.

Ugh.

"Yes, I know," I said. "Love you."

"Love you."

And then I added. "We're going to make Laura a friggin' key, Sweetie."

"Yes, I know."

The Mama stopped and checked her phone. "Wait a minute, they're in."

I checked my phone at the same time reading the same new text.

Mike is climbing through window now. Do we need to worry about an alarm?

Mike is Laura's husband and obviously was now climbing in our upstairs bedroom window.

We are in the house now.

Both the Mama and I smiled. I texted Laura back.

Wow. We’re going to make you a key.

We thanked Laura and Mike profusely. After we got back to our hotel room and talked with the girls on FaceTime, our anniversary weekend was back on track. Of all the things I love about the Mama, her ability to pivot and adapt to nearly every situation, big or small, positive or negative, and then think rationally about solutions, is probably the most inspiring thing of all (I remember the fire on Maui and many other examples). That and the way she cares for our girls and for me of late with my recent health issues again solidified for me why she's the woman of my dreams and why we're celebrating 20 years.

Twenty years of living fully and mostly well, loving comfortably within our lives. Amen to our #BhivePower.


"For 20 years now you’ve been my inspirational muse,
My stunning ache, and the us of which we choose.
We want to believe our two halves will always grow
Intact as two wholes that the end of days will show,
And until then we will live fully and mostly well,
Loving comfortably within our lives, our endless tell."

—Excerpt from a poem I wrote for the Mama on our anniversary












Sunday, October 8, 2017

To Have All the Time I Need

“When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am…”

— Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb


It was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday. All I could do was selfishly think about me, of what was known and not known, and what I may miss if things got worse. Even with family and friends telling me happy birthday over and over, and asking me how I felt over and over, I didn't feel any better.

I just didn't hear a lot of it. Couldn't hear a lot of it. Didn't want to hear a lot of it. Not even the familiar daily banter from our children sharing what had happened at school that day. Then my wife, the Mama as I affectionately call her, started asking me questions about how I was feeling and what I should do next with the doctors, and what her and my sister talked about, and don't forget this, and don't forget that --

"Stop treating me like a child!"

That's the way it is with me. The emotional paralysis followed by the simmer to slow boil to trashing the familial stove with my angry froth. The Mama kept calm and waited for my next move.

"You make it sound like I don't know what I'm doing and that I underserve myself with the doctors, that I don't want to be well," I said.

"Sweetie, I just care about you and want to do everything we can to make sure you get better and it doesn't happen again. I'm not trying to treat you like a child."

"Well, that's what it sounds like when I talk to both you and my sister. I just want to be well, Amy. I just want to be well and it sucks that this happened and keeps happening. I take care of myself."

"I know, Sweetie. I'm sorry. I love you. I want you to be well, too."

"I just want to be well. And I'm worried when I go back in tomorrow, they're going to want me to stay in the hospital again.

"I know, I know. I love you."

All this within earshot of our two girls, already worried enough for about as much as a seven and nine-year-old can and will worry about circumstances such as these.

"Are you and Dad fighting?" Beatrice asked the Mama.

"No, honey. Just talking about Daddy getting better, that's all."

"Dad, it's your birthday," said Beatrice.

"Happy Birthday!" chimed in Bryce.

Yes, yes it is. It's my friggin' birthday and I'm alive, Sweetie. Amen.

Less than two weeks prior to this, I had a fever and painful lumps where there shouldn't have been any -- let's just say, where the sun don't shine. Over three days they seemed appear, although who knows how long they'd been brewing (there were other possibly connected precipitating factors since June). All I knew is that I had to go see my doctor, because within a week after that, I'd be traveling extensively again for work. Or not. That remained to be seen at that point.

But after visiting my primary care physician, she immediately urged me to go to urgent care. And then from urgent care, they recommended I go to the emergency room immediately. Because of being with Kaiser, which is still expanding in Santa Cruz, that meant we had to go to the hospital in San Jose. The Mama asked one of our dear friends to watch the girls overnight, not knowing what would happen next.

The Mama drove me to the hospital, but on the way first we stopped by to see the girls where our friend had taken them to dinner. That was painfully awkward, because our oldest knew something was up more than us telling her that "Daddy just needed to get some tests." Her stress was obvious, although my youngest seemed more oblivious, something I was thankful for. We gave them big hugs and were on our way.

Once at the hospital and the tests run and examinations complete, the consensus was that it was an infected abscess that had to be surgically treated, although they had no idea about the other areas at that point. Spending the night in hospital was inevitable at this point and they did try to reassure me that this happens to people of all ages. During recovery I missed my girls and worked, of course, and by midday the next day, I was discharged.

The whole time before and after the surgery, the only thing the Mama and I could think about was when my sister had gotten so sick the year before. Within three days she'd gone septic and had to be sedated for nearly two weeks, with a dismal prognosis overall. The fear of multiple infections, especially getting something more virulent while in the hospital, scared us to no end. Cancer never came up, and besides a high white blood cell count, was never considered (at least as of now).

All I could think about was my family first -- what would we have to do if things went south on us. That's a dark rabbit hole no one wants to go down.

And then there was everything else I'd been working on to prep for my nonprofit Talent Board's big one day symposium and awards gala in Nashville, less than a week away at that point. So much blood, sweat and tears that I wanted to see come to fruition, to celebrate with my team, our volunteers, sponsors and research participants.

However, the surgeons felt like I'd be okay if I kept the areas clean and if my wife helped with the dressing and the packing before I left, and then come back in one week to check in (after my event in Nashville). Now, there's no reason to go into detail here, but I have one amazing and loving wife for her to care for me the way she has. God bless that beautiful woman. We're now only one week from our 20-year anniversary from that one day on the beach.

Which brings me back to my birthday and just wanting to be well. To have decades more to spend with my wife and my children. Unfortunately there's another hot spot on my body being monitored and checked for other infections, but I do feel better overall. Antibiotics consumed and no fever since surgery and the other areas have nearly healed all the way.

Yes, it was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday. But I'm alive and mostly well and live fully and comfortably within that life. Every single day. A life that's inextricably linked to my dear daughters and my amazing wife, and so many other family and friends who care enough to tell me happy birthday over and over, and that hope I feel better soon.

Because I just want to be well, to be there for them. To have all the time I need, for them and for me. I will not imagine otherwise. This is not how I am.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

More Than the F-Bombs

I knew the path I headed down had escalated beyond the reality of it. Knew it before I even opened my big mouth. Knew it when my understanding of what was really happening still stayed light years from where it could and would be some day. Knew that my volcanic reaction was more about me than them.

"I just don't want them watching those anymore!"

What had happened was this: a series of YouTube videos all about selling toys to kids unapologetically and incessantly called CookieSwirlC had invaded the lives of our children. These videos make our skin crawl -- the high-pitched bubbly pitching of kid stuff in the form of cute little videos with no educational or "nutritional" value whatsoever. Both the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I soon laid down the law of only 1-2 of them per day.

Then that led to the discovery of other innocuous YouTube videos on our TV thanks to our overpriced and comprehensive cable provider. For example, a series of silly guinea pig videos made by people with way too much time on their hands. Way too much. And those led to one in particular where the adult theme cranked the volume to 10 with f-bomb after f-bomb after f-bomb.

I didn't hear it myself, but the Mama told me it happened, and that thankfully the girls didn't really pay attention to the words and didn't repeat them either (yet). And that the Mama would turn that channel off pronto.

But I was already on the path of black and white -- my way or the highway.

"I just don't want them watching those anymore!"

When my emotions finally caught up with my rational thought, I articulated that I was scared to death of what was coming. That the girls were getting older and at some point their childhood would become an archeological dig in boxes and bags of old artwork and schoolwork, and in computer files of photos and videos.

I was scared to death of them seeing what we all eventually see: the sometimes shitty world that can hurt us and make us feel less than human. The Mama got, just wishing I would've said that in the first place.

Because more than the f-bombs, this was all about the great big world wide interwebs being accessible to our children and introducing them to the initially silly but eventually creepy subhuman. Yes, we set boundaries for them. Yes, we set limitations on how many and when, the same parameters with watching TV, playing kid games on their devices, etc. Yes, we also teach our girls to make their own wise choices, something that for all of us is a lifelong commitment. Which of course isn't easy considering the underdeveloped frontal lobes of our seven- and nine-year-old girls, still much more advanced than their boy counterparts.

We didn't have this kind of media access growing up, and yet that doesn't even matter, because today our kids do. So we keep doing what we're supposed to do as parents -- monitoring and filtering and limiting and explaining and empowering and turning off when we need to. YouTube for kids was a helpful segue. And yes, we're still the unapologetic parents who integrate it all into some semblance of family learning time.

However, can someone tell us how we block the CookieSwirlC videos please? No, seriously. Block them today. Please.