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, August 18, 2019

The #MeToo Guys

"I said if love has these conditions
I don't understand those songs you love
She said this is not a love song
This isn't fantasy-land
Don't go too far..."

–Rush, Cold Fire

In that moment, all I could think about were the times I pushed myself on another woman. Not physically, thank goodness, but emotionally, yes. Plus, the pining that followed when I was left with nothing consensual; when I was left with nothing but rejection. Every single time a memory of a little self-inflicted cut that healed still left its scar. The scar of how I dealt with it and her, more than being told no. The difference between fantasy and reality.

"I remember every time I went too far," I said aloud.

"Me too," one of my friends said.

"So, both of you tell me," I asked two of my friends. "You both have daughters. Have you talked with them about consent? Especially when they were teenagers?"

Both friends nodded and said yes they had.

"Thank you," I said, thinking of my own daughters, almost 9 and 11. "No means no. And yes when changed to no means no."

"That's why I'm never running for office," one friend said.

We just nodded. The hormonal rage of teenage angst doesn't stop when we hit 18. Sometimes we keep making the same mistakes as adults, with too much emotional subjectivity in our decision making.

Our discussion then devolved into a circular argument about when we grew up, it was a different time, and these things happened. But every generation grows up in a different time, and these things still always happen.

The last time I got together with my friend of 40+ years, we'd had discussions about the #MeToo movement, patriarchy and the damage that too many men, especially white men of privilege, have wrought on society, women, children and other men of varying backgrounds and ethnicities.

And yet, it's still been hard for us to unravel from the rationale that "we just can't do or say anything anymore," that we'll be next on the empowered female super bullet train out to the boonies to be ostracized and left for dead.

But that's not really true. We can do better by our children, though, both girls and boys, because girls can and do make ill-fated emotional decisions as well, consensual or not. There are guidelines for us all to teach and to follow. We're in this together, to be better together.

There's a simple Kidpower message that states:

Each of us has the right to be treated with safety and respect and the responsibility to act safely and respectfully towards ourselves and others.

My wife works at Kidpower, teaching kids, teens and adults safety skills. I'm also a Kidpower padded instructor who teaches self-defense skills.

In a previous post, I shared that one of the many Kidpower instructors I admire (besides my wife, of course) inspired me with this analogy:

When we're literally on fire, we're taught to -- Stop, Drop and Roll -- to extinguish the fire.

But why are we on fire in the first place? What happened to cause the fire? What things can we do to prevent these fires in the future? To make ourselves safer? To make our families safer? To make our communities safer?

Self-defense skills are important, but consent even more so and so important to teach our children. And our teens and even us as adults, but we should definitely start with our children.

According to Kidpower, children can start to learn the following boundaries and safety rules to ensure positive consent for touch, games, and affection as soon as they can talk, and these rules stay relevant throughout their lives:

Touch or games for play, teasing, and affection should be:

  1. Safe so that no one gets hurt
  2. OK with Each Person so that each person says “yes” (people who are scared, sick, drunk, or otherwise impaired cannot say yes; people who say yes without enthusiasm, or while turning away are not saying yes…)
  3. Allowed by the adults in charge
  4. Not a secret so Others Can Know, because abusive behavior thrives in secrecy

Having skills for protecting and respecting healthy boundaries in daily activities starting as a child is essential to preventing sexual abuse and assault, and ensuring consent in sexual activities as adults.

I had such a good time with my friends. We only see each other once or twice a year, and the fact that we've known each other for decades, and even through all our mistakes, we all want to do better, to be better men, husbands and fathers. And especially for those of us with children, we have and want to instill the values of personal responsibility and consent. We are the #MeToo guys, and I want my daughters to know that there are men young and old who can, will and are doing better when it comes to consent, safety and respect.

Other past posts about these friends of mine:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Love and the Levity

"Too many broken hearts have fallen in the river
Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea
You lay your bets and then you pay the price
The things we do for love, the things we do for love..."

–10cc, The Things We Do For Love

I saw them laugh together. Then they kissed and hugged and laughed again. Their cute dog running around their feet and barking. I couldn’t help but smile myself – a big one that went from ear to ear.

They were taking pictures. Dozens of pictures. Maybe hundreds. It was their wedding, for goodness sake, and as it should be. The groom, who's name is Ron and is my global program manager for Talent Board the organization I run, had married his sweetheart Carly and I couldn’t be happier. All of us there couldn’t be happier – family and friends all around.

My wife Amy was supposed to be with me, but our childcare for the girls didn’t work out, and so I went solo. Missed her terribly, especially because of the very sentimental moment of being at this wedding. Before I had even arrived to the wedding, somewhere 2.5 hours outside of Minneapolis, on a beautiful lake off a dirt and rock-filled road, I had been reminiscing about our wedding with Amy back in October of 2003.

And so, I pulled up an old picture from our wedding and posted it on Instagram and Facebook. One of the artsy ones that our photographer took, a dear family friend, and it had a soft, grainy, 1970’s feel to it. We stood cheek to cheek, the sun setting behind us into the sea. We put the wedding together ourselves and had lots of help from family and friends.

While at my team member's wedding, the small white lights that hung throughout the reception dinner tent lit up against the dimming light of dusk. It reminded me of the lights we had hung at our wedding all those years one point I was the only one in the room hanging the little white lights.

Or trying to hang them. There was a point where I stood at the top of a ladder holding an extension cord in one hand and a string of lights in another, trying to plug them into each other, and I felt like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I'm lucky I didn't fall and break my neck.

Here's more of that story (the video quality is poor since we waited a long time to convert from VHS to digital):

Ah, the laughter. It was great seeing Ron, his wife and all their friends and family laughing with each other as well. And then later that evening, when I checked Facebook, my friends were all poking fun at the wedding picture I posted. Teasing me more about what I wore than my lovely wife. All is fair in love and Facebook.

And yet, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It all started with the picture in the beginning of this post, which then led to a dear friend posting a funny picture of the Grateful Dead in white suits.

Which led to Earth, Wind and Fire; ABBA; the Bee Gees and so many more. Check out the thread here.

Some of you may not know who are all in these pictures, but they're pretty darn funny to me considering the context. The love and the levity of what they posted warmed my heart. Every time I look at them I'm crying. So funny.

A little laughter goes a long way in life, in relationships, in marriage. It keeps the endorphins popping in our heads and love and empathy expanding in our hearts. Along with plenty of laughter, other recommendations I would give to Ron and his wife -- compromise when possible especially when you don't see eye to eye; don't hide things from each other no matter what they are; don't judge or shame each other and definitely don't go to bed mad if you can help it (I haven't always done my best here, but am better in my elder age), always be grateful for each other and respect each other in all facets of life; fall in love every single day (that is possible, trust me) and again, laugh as much as you can.

Amen. Mercy me, so funny.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Why These Fires Start

"I'm trying, I'm trying to sleep
I'm trying, I'm trying to sleep
But I can't, but I can't when you all have
Guns for hands..."

–twenty one pilots, Guns for Hands

I almost brought the nearest to me to the ground; the two pops were loud and unmistakable. I flinched and knew in my periphery my oldest daughter was on my right and my niece and her baby daughter where slightly behind me on my left. And my wife was with our youngest daughter at the other end of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. How was I going to help them all?

I couldn't. And then I thought of part of my Kidpower self-defense training: when someone has a gun, you run. You run for safety as best as you can and get help as soon as you can. That most shooters aren't very accurate when people are running away from them, and police departments concur. That doesn't mean you won't get shot, but falling to the ground where you are can make you more of a target. And trying to fight someone with a gun pointing at you, which should be a last resort for those even with a modicum of training, could mean a quick loss of life. 

All these things went through my mind seconds after the two loud pops. But they weren't gun shots – they were just balloons popping in one of the boardwalk games. Just balloons. I sighed and then we were on our way enjoying the day. I can't imagine what it's been like for real victims of shootings and their families.

The immediate fear was palatable, though. Especially considering that only a few days earlier there was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. And for the first time we discussed shootings with our children, and what to do if it happens and how to stay safe. No surprise, it scared them, but it was still a necessary conversation. 

That's now already 32 mass shootings in the U.S. this year (defined as three or more killings in a single episode).

There have been many arguments as to why this keeps happening in America, but one clear fact documented over and over again is that there are too many guns in this country with relatively unregulated gun ownership compared to the rest of the developed world. In fact, Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. Combine that now with growing civil unrest, resurgent racism, simmering hate and fear being stoked by some of the very leaders who are supposed to call foul and unify us, and we have perpetual societal bonfires jeopardizing the lives of our families. 

I say that because one of the many Kidpower instructors I admire (besides my wife, of course) inspired me with this analogy:

When we're literally on fire, we're taught to -- Stop, Drop and Roll -- to extinguish the fire.

But why are we on fire in the first place? What happened to cause the fire? What things can we do to prevent these fires in the future? To make ourselves safer? To make our families safer? To make our communities safer?

In light of these horrific mass shootings of late, we need to keep our fears in check and work hard to be aware and prevent these societal fires from starting in the first place, including:

  • Practice skills for taking charge of your safety and your family's everyday
  • Learn and practice the safety plan at your school/business
  • Practice speaking up about safety to those with power to act
  • Practice overcoming the “Bystander Effect" and empowering yourself and others to take action
  • Help strengthen a positive social climate in your community

These being just a few of the Kidpower Safety tips for individuals and families

And as American citizens, speaking truth to power about why these fires start in the first place and what we can do to prevent them through legislation and law enforcement is also our responsibility. We can and should be shouting from the rooftops about reducing the number of guns in our country and addressing the racist hate and destructive anger that's driving these mass shootings of late.

Speak up and be safe. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Curse-Funding Our Next Vacation

Maybe you've heard it before: intelligent people swear more, stay up late, leave work at their desks and are messier overall. Various bits of research loosely woven together from random ends of the world wide interwebs seem to circulate like this on Facebook every month.

For example, with the cursing -- people who could name the most swear words within a minute also tend to score higher on an IQ test. The study concludes that a rich vocabulary of swear words is a sign of rhetorical strength rather than the attempt to hide verbal deficits.

Then I must be a friggin' genius. On the swearing at least. The staying up late? Nope, not even close. We're in bed by 9:00-9:30 PM every friggin' night. However, my wife and I leave our work at all our desks (in my office, in the house, etc.), but the messiness varies by age in our house -- our two girls are kids, so they're usually the messier ones, leaving out toys everywhere all the time that we're constantly nagging them to pick up their friggin' toys. And that we're constantly picking up for them.

Good friggin' God. The swearing. When we were on family vacation this year, there were too many times when my wife and I cursed away for whatever reason, usually out of momentary frustration with each other, the kids, or vacation circumstance around us (like not being able to find our car in one of the Walt Disney World parking lot), and both our girls called us out on them every single time.

"Daddy, you said the f-word," said Bryce.

"No I didn't -- I said friggin'," I would counter.

"Dad, that's the same thing," said Beatrice.

"No, it's not."

"Yes, it is!"

But now the cursing is going to make us pay if our girls have anything to do with it. Bryce had already created a curse jar awhile ago, so when either of us swears, we have to put money in the jar. Maybe you have one at your house. At first it was just fifty cents here and there, but now, Bryce has created a new "fine" chart based on the swear words used.

For example:

  • The F-word (including the softer friggin' versions) will cost us $5.
  • The S-word will cost us $2.
  • The D-word will cost us $2.
  • The H-word will cost us $1.

They wanted the F-word to cost us $10, but we talked them down (thank friggin' God). We also convinced them that "crap" doesn't count, that "dang" doesn't count and that "heck" doesn't count. But friggin' will cost us, and I use that one a lot.

So, whether or not swearing makes us more intelligent, I don't friggin' know, but I do know that maybe we'll be starting a new savings account. In fact, like crowdfunding, we could be curse-funding our next vacation.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Collective of Little Differences

The waters came with paper straws.

"Nice touch," I said to the waiter.

"I know," he said, smiling.

I drank two glasses of ice water with the one paper straw and it didn't disintegrate or make my water taste like newspaper. This experience was at the tail end of our family vacation in the airport in Orlando.

It's hard enough trying to do our part week to week when we're home, limiting the amount of single-use plastics that now account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year, according to a recent National Geographic article.

That's 40%.

Damn. And 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations that can take hundreds of years to break down. Plus, microplastics are everywhere in our environment -- in our water and the air. Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. And eventually, even us.

So, what about recycling? There is some plastic being recycled, right? U.S. recycling rates of PET plastic bottles have historically been sluggish. In 2017 just 29.2 percent of PET bottles were actually recycled compared to the global average of 56 percent, according to the National Association of PET Container Resources. At least more large businesses like PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Walmart are setting bigger longer term goals of using more recycled plastic in their products. But we've got a lot more recycling of plastic to do to get there.

Today, there seems to be this backlash of "it's not that big of a problem; it's not my problem; nobody tells me what to do; I do whatever I want" mentality. It's absurd to us actually, the fact that we're metaphorically mimicking the movie Anchorman scenes where Ron Burgundy and his news team are walking through a park throwing trash on the ground. It's become such a partisan issue that the Trump campaign is selling plastic red straws to combat the evil liberal agenda of paper ones.


Sure, plastic has made our lives easier and more convenient, especially when you have kids, and especially when you take kids on vacation. But my wife Amy wanted us to try and reduce our single-use plastic footprint on our trip (and everyday actually). So we brought refillable water bottles (some that have their own filters), reusable utensils, reusable storage containers for food, and metal straws -- all of which Amy just cleaned at the end of the day for the next day.

Nearly every place we went to eat and/or get a snack that wanted to give us single-use plastics -- lids and straws and such -- we politely declined every chance we got. We explained to both our girls what we were trying to do and why we were doing it. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando also offered paper straws as alternatives, which was a nice surprise, plus recycling for bottles and cans. Of course we couldn't get away with not ever using some single-use plastics, but we did the best we could.

In the end, it's not really a lot of work. A collective of little differences like this can go a long way in keeping our planet healthy.

Monday, July 15, 2019

They Do Last Longer

We saw the lions. It was our second time on the safari, this time at dusk, and we were excited to see other nocturnal animals that were hiding to sleep the day away during our first run. There were three lions laying down high up on a flat rock. Prior to seeing them, we heard them growling and roaring and the tour guide was hopeful we'd see them.

There were two females and a male laying there on the rock as we rounded the corner. Such majestic creatures; we were so grateful to see them. I took a few pictures, knowing that the distance would mean grainier resolution zooming in.

It was only a couple of minutes, and as they started to move out of view, one of the females got up and grazed the male's face with her body, laid back down, and then the male mounted her.

It's natural. It happens. Even on a Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom safari with your family. And all the other families on the safari with you.

All the adults who witnessed it laughed awkwardly. All the kids asked what happened.

Once we were off the safari truck, our oldest daughter Beatrice asked, "What were they doing?"

My wife Amy answered, "They were mating."

"Ewwwww," Beatrice said shaking.

"What?" our youngest Bryce said.

"They were mating."

"Hey baby, you got a hot body!" Bryce said and then laughed.

What the hell? Where did that come from? These kids today.

It was funny, though. Bryce is a riot and Beatrice is growing up so fast; we're so grateful to be able to take them both on another fun family vacation adventure. One where we make memories together and share new and unique experiences. Where we unplug, at least somewhat. Even if I'm mostly checked out of work, which took a couple of days deep into vacation to get there, I'm still sharing and posting the vacation pics on Instagram and Facebook, because that's how I roll. And the girls still have some device time to themselves in between the adventuring.

During our adventuring, for the most part, we're all present and paying attention and our mindfulness accounted for. And while on vacation, early this morning, I ready a little piece in the New York Times about paying attention and noticing your surroundings, without over-analyzing. Just seeing and experiencing. All the sights and sounds and people and animals and things around us. This is where our connectivity comes from, where new ideas come from, where inspiration comes from.

I may take a lot of pictures of it all and share it all electronically, but the experiences are real. Including the experience of forgetting where you parked your rental car in one of the Walt Disney World parking lots. Of walking around hot and tired looking for our car, dragging our kids behind us, and not having a clue of where we parked. And out of hundreds of pictures I've taken so far on our family vacation, we neglected to take one of our parking spot number. We knew the general vicinity, just not the exact number. I thought of the quip you might here when staring at someone for too long, "take a picture, it lasts longer," and the irony of the quip and not paying attention here wasn't lost on me.

After walking around for nearly 30 minutes looking for our car, Amy had gone and found a parking attendant who said about the time we parked that morning, we would've been in section 301. I was looking in section 330, with the girls whining behind me. If Amy hadn't done that, I would've been walking around all night.

Yes, indeed. The pictures and the experiences, they do last longer, so take a moment and pay attention.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Let It Rest

"I'm alright
Nobody worry 'bout me
Why you got to gimme a fight?
Can't you just let it be?"

–Kenny Loggins, I'm Alright

It stopped working for no reason. We'd been driving over three hours to my sister's house and listening to Songs of America: Patriotism, protest, and the music that made a nation, an inspiring new book collaboration from Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw, when the Apple CarPlay software connection stopped working. I swapped out my phone for my wife's, but neither one worked. So odd because it had never happened before. I realized that software can hiccup and yet was still immediately obsessed with why the heck it stopped working.

I unplugged and plugged in our phones multiple times, but nothing.

"Let it rest," my wife Amy said.

"Let it rest?" I said.

"Yes, let it rest."

"That's not a thing."

"Sure it is. Things get tired and need to rest."

"Nope, not a thing."

So I fiddled with it for a few more minutes and then gave up. We visited with my sister and then went to my high school reunion, and on the next day we went out to lunch. The CarPlay connection worked again as if it had never stopped.

"See, I told you," Amy said.

"Damn, what the heck?" I said. "It's still not a thing."

"Yes, it is."

We laughed. After fun weekend of reunion and family time with my sister, niece and great niece, we returned home to find that the gophers had returned to our backyard. In the 13 years we've lived in our house, I can recall only one or two times when we've had gophers in our backyard.

A few months ago I wouldn't have stressed on it as much since we'd let our backyard go. The reason being that our pet rabbit Dragonlily, only a little over a year old, had free reign in our backyard and ate everything in sight. But at the end of April we upgraded our yard with new sod, flagstone and a rabbit run (so our bunny wouldn't eat everything in sight).

We did it all ourselves and we were super proud of it, just like we did when we first moved in all those years ago. And then the gophers came back. With a vengeance. Freshly pushed up dirt piles along the edge of our new flagstone and along the new grass. Plus, we had notice some strange yellow spots on the lawn over the past month and now wondered if it was them -- the friggin' gophers -- digging under the new sod. I tried to flood them out, but that didn't work.

"The gopher can be a friend to bun-bun," Amy said, referring to our rabbit Dragonlily, after I came in cursing about the latest mounds of freshly dug-up dirt.

"No gopher friends," I said.

"C'mon, Sweetie. It'll be fine. A little gopher or two aren't hurting anyone."

"But it's not fine and it's hurting me; you know how much work went into the yard. Should I just let this rest, Sweetie? Maybe it'll just fix itself?"

I tried to say it with a frustrated wink and smile, and she gave me a pass thankfully. She knows how I get and is always much better at letting go than me. Even our rabbit was trying to tell me to chill out, eating one of our flowers when he had a few minutes out of his run, two feet from a fresh gopher hole.

But to no avail; I headed for the local ACE hardware store and asked one of the guys that worked there what humane gopher/mole traps they had. "None that work," he told me. Then I asked for the gopher/mole gas, which looked like little sticks of dynamite with a short fuse. Really.

I wanted this gopher or gophers gone before we left on our family vacation. I lit one little stick of dynamite gas and push it into a hole and covered it with dirt. It was super stinky, too. I did two of these in two different gopher holes, and of course while doing this, I couldn't help remember the scenes in the classic comedy Caddyshack, with Bill Murray trying to blow up the gopher. And the gopher always got away, even after the golf course was completely destroyed.

On the morning we left for our family vacation, I went out to the still dark backyard and noticed a freshly dug out mound of gopher dirt in between two pieces of lovely new flagstone.

I audibly sighed and shook my head.

Nothing to do but let it rest. They can have it all (for now).

I'm alright. I can just let it be.