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, September 25, 2016

Like a Superhero Punch to the Solar Plexus

"Beatrice, let's go. Get in front of me now. Come on!"

Bea stalled at the curb. She wouldn't look at me, just down at the ground where she stood on her scooter.

Then she looked up. "Excuse me," she said.

"What? We have to go now. What are you doing?"

"I can't get by you, Daddy!"

"Oh, sorry."

I backed up off the sidewalk and Beatrice rolled past me on her scooter. The scowl on her face evident, she stopped right ahead of me, turned, and punched me in the stomach.

"Whoa, Bea."

It wasn't a significantly hard punch, since I am significantly much bigger than she is, but it was a defiant punch nonetheless. One to let me know how frustrated she was with me.

"Why did you that?"

"You are mean," she said, and rode farther away from me on her scooter.

Ah yes -- Daddy is direct and gruff at times. That's why. I wasn't bullying her, but I was bossing her while not listening to her and understanding her situation: that I was in her way and I didn't realize it or acknowledge it.

She used her voice to let me know how I made her feel. I smiled as she rode away from me because, if I had been someone who was being mean to her and bullying her purposely, then I felt better about her standing up for herself. She used her Kidpower, looked me in the eyes and spoke "in a firm voice." Unfortunately, instead of holding both hands in front of her body with palms facing outwards, like a wall, and telling me to stop, which is Kidpower recommendation of dealing with bullying, she punched me right in the stomach. Not really part of the anti-bullying playbook unless absolutely necessary to defend yourself.

And here's the thing for me and the Mama today -- there seems to be this acerbic correlation between those who defend themselves who have been and are "bullied" due to gender, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation, and the escalation of those who bully to keep them down and maligned. That's probably because it's being reported more often than not, the prevalence of all kinds of bullying being significant. Some studies show that students experience some form of bullying nearly 50 percent of the time.

While the effects of being bullied are well-documented, those who bully are at increased risk for academic problems, substance use, and violent behavior later in adolescence and adulthood. This is the part that bothers me the most now, especially being the father of two girls. Unfortunately the rise in incivility and bullying is being sugarcoated as an appropriate backlash against a supposed overly political correctness.

But that's just a load of crap; it's simply lethargic ignorance to overreact and make it personal. To hurt those we don't like or agree with instead of having a productive and emotionally intelligent dialogue about agreeing to disagree. It's all about the "more" -- we let our misogynistic insults fly more in America than ever. Maybe I'm just paying more attention than ever, but it seems as though as women make more equality progress in the workplace, in public office and at home, and in leadership positions far and wide overall, the more the demeaning rhetoric flies.

I'm livid because of what I'm seeing and hearing, not only from the grand global political stage, but from friends, family and peers who seem to be forgiving this behavior as the status quo. Who add to the bullying discourse by concurring and piling on, or even worse, not speaking up and letting it slide. Who forgive our leaders (men and women alike) at all levels in business, government and in school who belittle our daughters (and sons) this way.

I'm livid and saddened because I believe we're better than that, although the Mama and I are painfully aware of what's coming for our girls as they get older. So like a superhero punch to the solar plexus, we're preparing them as best we can to be fully aware and walk away when they should, and to fight back when they must.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

When Gravity Triples with Sick

“All the same we take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances
Plus ca change
Plus c'est la meme chose
The more that things change
The more they stay the same…”

—Rush, Circumstances 

All I could do was stare at the estimated time of arrival on the little screen in front of me and will the minutes away. And it worked. Kind of. A few minutes would disappear, pulling the time up, and then a few minutes later the few minutes returned, pushing the time out again. It was like watching small waves lap at the beach in the same spot. For hours. Forever. Never really coming in or going out. A mosaic of sea change that never changes.

But it didn't take those last few hours on the plane to know I wasn't going to make it back in time. I kept adding on what would still have to transpire at the end of the journey, and it just wasn't going to add up in my favor. Yes, I'm a hoper and a doer, and although the hope hadn't fled, the doing this time was done and I was completely at the mercy of circumstance.

That morning the weather cooperated and all lights were green with the time of departure. Barely acclimated to Eastern Standard Time, the morning I left Toronto, Canada, I had to get up at 4 AM EST (that's 1:00 AM PST for those keeping score at home) for a 8:00 AM flight back to the Bay Area. Now, I planned it that way so I could get back to Santa Cruz by midday, if the flight was on time and traffic home from the airport was reasonable, the probability being high at that time of the day. Even if the flight was delayed a little bit for whatever reason, there was still plenty of margin to get me home, hug my family, and get Bea and me to our soccer team practice in time.

After checking in and getting through customs, I made sure to buy gifts for the girls. I don't do that every time, but this time I was still disappointed in the fact that I had forgotten to have them give me a stuffed animal stowaway before I left on my trip. I always have them pick one out for me, something small, and then take a few pictures with it on my trip wherever I go and post them on Facebook so they can see where daddy (and the stuffed animal) have been, and maybe other folks we've met during the trip, similar to the Flat Stanley idea.

But this time we all forgot. Gravity tripled with disappointment when I realized that after I left there was no stuffed animal in my backpack. Not quite the "I forgot our anniversary" feeling like Nicholas Cage in The Family Man, but still disappointing.

So I bought them each a little moose, took their picture together and posted: This week on YYZ reentry #BhivePower Stowaways.

An hour later, on the plane, buckled in, ready to go and -- then nothing. The plane sat on the tarmac near the gate for 30 minutes until finally the captain told us there was a maintenance issue and we had to head back to the gate to fix it. Both in English and French.

Two hours later they were still trying to fix it.

One hour later the captain told us they couldn't fix it and we've have to change planes.

One more hour later and then we boarded the new plane and finally taxied to the runway.

We took off and and I realized that there was no wifi available on the flight, and that would limit the work I could do. So I did what I could and then watched Captain America: Civil War and listened to This American Life. Otherwise, all I could really do in between was stare at the estimated time of arrival on the little screen in front of me and will the minutes away. But it made no never mind; the arrival time was wasn't changing and getting home in time went from hopeful to helpless. The math problem looked something like this:

Daddy leaves a Toronto hotel at 4:30 AM EST. His flight is delayed for nearly 4 hours due to a maintenance issue. Daddy is unhappy because he misses his family and doesn't want to miss coaching soccer practice later that day, but safety first. A new plane is towed in and the 5-hour flight home starts shortly thereafter. Based on an average air speed of 490 miles per hour, and then the added bonus of the airport drive home during commute with an average speed of 35-45 miles per hour, what time does Daddy actually get home PST?

Gravity tripled again and I felt sick. Not only was I not going to see my girls for another six to seven hours (by the time I got home), I was going to miss soccer practice. I was going to let them all down -- my girls and the entire team -- and that really, really sucked. The Mama had to change up her schedule to get Beatrice to practice, and one of the other team parents stepped up to coach practice, and I was very thankful for both.

Photo courtesy of Paul Turner
Let go and let Godot; the existential absurdity of it all hit rock bottom when I waited an additional painful 30 minutes for my suitcase at baggage claim. I know, I always say I hate being away from my family but love to travel -- first world problems and all that. I finally acquiesced to the fact that, no matter how long it took, I just needed to get home, safe and sound. That I would see my family soon. That I would also miss soccer practice, but would see my team at the game on Saturday. When gravity triples with sick you have to stand up straight and own it. I knew that all I had control over was my immediate actions and my reactions to this unfortunate circumstance, and although it didn't make me feel any better at the time, I just needed to get back intact.


And get back intact I did. Amen. 

Photo courtesy of Paul Turner

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Learning How to Take the Lead and Play Forward

Photo courtesy of Paul Turner
And then she asked me again. "Can I play goalie?"

I took a mental beat and said, "Listen, everybody plays every position on our team. I promise you'll play goalie, but not today. You'll play other positions today."

She wasn't done. "I can't play forward. I not very good at. Please don't make me play forward."

"You're going to play forward."

She gazed out over the soccer field. The game was to start in a few minutes. "I tried to play it last year and I was just too slow. Please don't make me play it."

I took another beat. "Again, everybody rotates on our team so we can learn all the positions. You'll only have to play forward for a few minutes and then I'll move you to defense."

"How long is a few minutes?"

"A few minutes."

"But how long is a few minutes exactly?"

"How about at least six minutes?"

"How about three?"

"No, at least six or seven minutes."

"Ugh. Okay."

"Thank you. Now let's play some soccer."

And so it went with one of my players. And she did a much better job than what she'd give herself credit for. She really did. As did all the girls on our team -- The Blue Flames. Yes, I'm coaching soccer again this year. U10 recreational soccer this time, my team made up of 12 eight and nine-year-old girls including my oldest, Beatrice. We played our first game, and while I'm not really supposed to keep score (again), I do, of course ('cause we won).

But my first priorities coaching are otherwise. I look forward to practicing soccer fundamentals and teamwork and having fun, fun, fun no matter what level their girls are at. That's why everyone will always get a chance to play every game and rotate positions throughout the season. A big plus is that we have really involved parents that feel the same way.

I have such fond memories of playing sports as a child and throughout junior high and high school with many a great coach in my past. Coaches who wanted me to learn new skills and to safe play and teamwork and leadership and to aspire to greatness, no matter my level of play. My own daughter has improved dramatically since last year and is no longer timid in the heat of the moment, kicking and dribbling the ball like it's nobody's business.

The fact that we're free to do this safely on a Saturday morning isn't lost on me, especially on a day later like today in America, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And it's not just because of attacks themselves, which were horrific enough for us all then and now, but also the fact that imperfect but necessary democracies like our own are constantly under siege abroad and at home.

Why am I segueing to this dark day in our nation's history? Because I can't get the children out of my head. The children here in America and those around the world whose very lives have been irrevocably changed and those whose very lives are in constant jeopardy every day due to violence, terrorism, war and genocide.

Like the children of those lost on 9/11, where over 3,000 killed and 6,000 injured on that day. Like the children in Allepo, a city in Syria, the epicenter of the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history and a civil war that's killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years. Unfortunately this list goes on and on.

God bless them all -- those children lost to violence and those who lost their families to violence and those young and old who live with the memories of it all. Like many of you out there, I'm a hoper and a doer, I really believe we can and do make a positive difference in our children's lives and those around the world. This is again why I support Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, and September is International Child Protection Month.

It still starts with us, in countries like ours, where we're relatively free to live our own lives and speak our own minds, to challenge the status quo when necessary and to compromise when we need to unify and show true leadership. Where we're able to talk about what happened and why, and where we can still rise above and make a difference for our friends and family, our neighbors down the street and across this great country. We can create the incremental improvements that truly are the catalysts of positive change and progress for our own children, and for others around this fragile world.

Because I want to be able to coach a recreational soccer team of eight and nine-year-old girls who play on Saturday mornings with family and friends cheering us on. Where the only comfort zone the players need to push themselves out of is learning how to take the lead and play forward, not fearing for their very lives.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Feeling the Ceiling from the Bottom Up

“If you're not gonna tell the truth, then why start talking?” —Gene Wilder


And then humbly, from the mouths of babes:

"Daddy's going to die first, you know," said Beatrice.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because you're the oldest."

"Yeah," agreed Bryce.

"Daddy's going to live a long time," said the Mama.

"Yes I am."

Yes, I am. I feel great. 

Maybe it's self-deceit, feeling the proverbial ceiling of my life as I do now than ever before, primarily because of my age more than how I actually feel. And deceive ourselves we do, whether we feel good or not. My sister can attest to that, but she's thankfully a lot better today than she was just three months ago. And I feel pretty good myself after all these 50 years.

In fact, after all the millennia of evolution that helped us recognize patterns in the world that maybe kept us alive, even if the patterns didn't always play out, hence the deceiving ourselves just in case. Because if we didn't adapt quickly enough, we were dead.

This from a fascinating NPR TED Radio Hour episode all about Why We Lie. How up until the advent of written communication about 5,000 years ago, everything we shared our ancestors shared orally just disappeared in thin air. No record of truths or lies or all in between -- and the reality is a lot of us lie a little bit to ourselves and others -- all the time.

Today everything is documented all the time and that harsh fluorescent reality light shines on our lives nearly 24/7. You put something in an email or post it on Twitter and Facebook or look it up online via your browser of choice -- even if you delete it all -- the ghost of it all is fossilized forever. No take backs. Ever.

There's another form of this "written" record as well, our physical documentation, that we can never escape. That of which is inside each of us, and of what modern medicine can tell us about ourselves (or at least, tries too via tests and procedures and vast array of fantastical techno gadgetry -- even doctors self-deceive and directly deceive when they need to).

Recently I finally made time to take that magical test you take when you hit 50, the one that checks you out from the bottom up, if you know what I mean. Days before the test I joked with my wife that my bowels were having Braxton Hicks contractions. Thankfully she laughed. While the girls played nearby, we continued to discuss my pending preventative colonoscopy screening, and she asked me what I had to do to prep for the procedure.

"An all liquid diet 24 hours before and then that industrial sludge the night before. Ugh," I said.

"I know, but it'll be over before you know it," said the Mama.

"Is Daddy getting his blood taken?" asked Bryce.

"No, not exactly, Sweetie," said the Mama.

"Is he getting a shot?"

"No, not a shot. Sort of a surgical procedure."

"It's not a surgical procedure," said Daddy. "Should I tell them what it is?"

"Nope."

"But it's a horrible alien probe."

"Nope."

Sigh.

After a night of human Drano (what I drank was called GoLYTELY® -- it had a mild salt water taste), I laid on the examination table the next day under the influence of fentanyl looking inside myself on a TV monitor,  like Dennis Quaid injected into Martin Short in the old movie Interspace.

"Wow, you've got a big large intestine," said my Gastroenterologist. "Looking good so far."

"Great," I said. Big large intestine? What was that -- a double positive? 

At this point (and in that place, laying there as I was) there's no where to hide after 50 years of living, just like my knee surgery from two years ago that I watched in its entirety. Once the surgeon was inside my knee, he had to clean out loose cartilage he couldn't see in my MRI, and then drill holes in the head of my femur in order to draw blood and eventually create scar tissue, all after trimming my torn meniscus.

The body is a span of sped up geological time, with trace elements of everything ever inhaled, ingested, damaged and released internally by one precipitating factor or another, trapped forever, layer after layer, in cellular walls like hardened subatomic sediment. Although about 5 percent of adult men and women are diagnosed with colon cancer at some point in their lifetime, thankfully that wasn't something that ran in my family. Other cancers and auto-immune genetic anomalies may still lay dormant, but to date I continue to be in good shape.

So today I've gone from feeling the road as I do to feeling the ceiling from the bottom up, but the good news was that I got a A+ on my test. A big large double positive A+. Amen.

Take care of yourselves -- Dads, Moms and Kids -- and get any and all your preventative screenings when recommended. The body always tells the truth, even when we don't.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

It's International Child Protection Month: Be a Hoper and a Doer

I'm a hoper. Always have been. Through my early years of growing up in family dysfunction and domestic violence, I stayed a hoper, and I believed that someday we'd all help to counter incivility, bullying, abuse and violence.

I'm a hoper. But I'm a doer, too. And that's what's made all the difference in my life to date. Why I'm with the Mama. Why we have two wonderful daughters.

Why I support Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education. Although it's year round for our family, empowering empathy, positive strength and safety in our lives, September is International Child Protection Month:

Let’s transform the fear of bullying, violence, and abuse into a future of lifelong safety and success for today’s youth.

Imagine the impact if all young people believed that they could count on their adults to help! Please discuss the Kidpower Protection Promise with the kids and adults in your life:

“YOU are VERY important to me. If you have a safety problem, I want to know – even if I seem too busy, even if someone we care about will be upset, even if it is embarrassing, even if you promised not to tell, and even if you made a mistake. Please tell me, and I will do everything in my power to help you!”

Make a video or photo of you making the Kidpower Protection Promise and post it in your own social media to inspire other caring adults.

Be a Hoper and a Doer.

"Kidpower Rocks!"




Sunday, August 28, 2016

To Own Their Own First Takes

Life is a series of first runs that we rerun with fragile memory. No matter the amount of fretting and anxious prep, every scene is a first take -- no do overs or over-produced multi-edits -- one take whether we're ready or not.

And most of the time we're not. But that's okay, because this reality show is the realist of them all, and one with script after script of blank pages, where the story appears as we live it, the reappearing ink full of light and shade, color and smell, taste and touch, and plenty of tears and smiles.

The first days of school each year for many children are full apprehension and fear, the pits of stomachs holding fast rabid squirrels bouncing off rubber walls. I remember my first days of kindergarten still to this date, over 45 years ago. And while most of the details have since washed away over time, the feelings I had are still quite vivid: my nervousness, my shyness, the longing for home and my mother who had just dropped me off, and the sheer terror of meeting strange adults and other children I had never met before in my life.

The years to come were filled with less and less fear and a greater social stability, one that I would enjoy well into adulthood, and continue to in my unwritten pages of today. As parents, that's one of the best things we can hope for with our children beyond the security of food and shelter.

The past few years for Beatrice included auditory processing delays and a social angst that hurt our hearts to witness. All we could do was encourage healthy responses to these transitions and do whatever we need to do to support her, and her sister of course, who continues to break stuff while dressed as a princess.

Bryce has no social qualms whatsoever, but her aggressive tendencies (i.e., hitting and kicking) are a work in progress for sure. Bryce still struggles with exotropia as well and the eye doctor still isn't sure she'll need eye surgery in the future or not. Until then her cute little pink glasses with transitional lenses rock our world, just as much as she does.

While always being "on" academically since her preschool days, Beatrice has now blossomed socially and is more comfortable than she's ever been in social situations. She couldn't wait to start second grade. Frothing at the mouth to start, those rabid squirrels driving her onward to new life experiences. She may be more "boyish" than "girlish" at the moment, but that doesn't matter to us because the only moments that do matter are those when she happily adapts and enjoys her scenes.

Bryce made the leap to kindergarten this year, and due to dropping enrollment in our district, she was put into a combined kinder/1st grade classroom. We were a little apprehensive, as was she, but what was perfectly clear on her first day was her reaction sitting at her new desk with her name tag proudly displayed in front of her -- she kissed us each goodbye and sent us on our merry parent way. No crying or fear, just ready to rock her next feature film.

We definitely have the Bridges to Kinder preschool program to thank in helping develop both girls early on. Of course I have the Mama to thank for her tireless parental guidance, Kidpowering and helping me play my best supporting Daddy role.

We know we are blessed and never take for granted our family's pivot points and plot twists, because we want our girls to own their own first takes, regardless the memories replayed again and again, and replayed they will be.





Sunday, August 21, 2016

Until the End of Our Time










There we were drifting together on the choppy Big Lake,
lit up in the sun like safety buoys bobbing to and fro,
our youngest dripping wet and cradled quietly in my lap.

Fragrant pine and cool waves crested our floaties over and over
as the Mama pulled us farther out from shore bound together,
the water only knee deep these days due to years of drought.

Beatrice and cousin Braxton shared joyous laughter
while Bryce kissed me on the forehead, shivering.
I teased, "Bryce, I'm scared! Please save me! Save me!"

She giggled, "Daddy, you're big! You're not afraid of anything!"

Her words settled like silt, fathoms deep in my heart,
and in a mere moment a hundred thousand years passed
where they fossilized into layers of a hard time with happy.

You're not afraid of anything!

But I am, Bryce.
Of some things that is.
Not as much as I used to be.
But there are resurgent fears
now that you and your sister are here.

I'm afraid of growing old and of maybe getting sick,
of losing the Mama, your amazing mother, my wife.
I'm afraid you'll lose us like I lost mine
and that maybe we'll lose you both before our time.
I'm afraid you'll be bullied by unforgiving teens
and be hurt by a lifetime of minimized misogyny.
I'm afraid of perpetual ignorance, prejudice and fear,
and the fact that true justice no longer prevails
and in the blink of an eye good people can and do die.
I'm afraid that our economy will tank again
and everything we have will again be at risk
and that you won't have half the opportunities
we've had that were half of what our parents had.
I'm afraid that our democracy might one day fail
and that maybe that day is already here.
I'm afraid there is no God.
And I'm afraid that there is one.
I'm afraid of being accused of something I never did
and of never forgiving others for something they've done
and of always regretting something from near and afar
and of never having the chance to reconcile the lot.

I'm afraid of everything and nothing, Bryce.
It's you and your sister and your mother
who help quell most if not all my fears
and fill me with a hope and a love unending,
and who I will fight for and with
until the very end of time,
or until the end of our time,
or until the end of mine.