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, January 18, 2015

Why the Wheels on the Bus Are Empathic

Let's take the city bus!

Granted, it's not glamorous global travel, to see the world through the eyes of locals from other cultures, but then again...

The Mama and Beatrice have already taken the Santa Cruz city bus around town, but have not as a family. I know, I know -- we drive all over town and don't usually use alternate forms of transportation, including walking, all of which are better for the environment (and the pocketbook, even with gas prices dipping like they've done).

We actually do walk a lot in and around our neighborhoods, especially back and forth to Natural Bridges State Park, and even sometimes to the girls' school. We're not a bicycling family, but we are a walking and hiking family, and we proudly push the girls to partake wherever and whenever we go.

The caveat to the "push" is that we literally have to push them in the sit-and-stand stroller still once in a while, Bryce especially, and the second year at Disney was no exception. But hey, we're still getting out and going, going, going!

We've been doing that with the girls since a very early age -- planes, trains and automobiles -- to various locales near and far in the states. No where international yet, but definitely on our travel radar.

The Mama shared a great Atlantic article titled Traveling Teaches Students in a Way Schools Can't and this quote really sticks with me:

It’s a very powerful Eureka! moment when you’re traveling: to realize that people don’t have the American dream. They’ve got their own dream. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.

Indeed it is. The Mama introduced this good thing to me when we met and we've never looked back. But this quote's just as applicable inside America than out, which is why we want the girls to be comfortable and confident going anywhere, meeting new people, embracing new experiences across the spectrum of life (good and bad, but preferably not life-threatening), and learning a humane cultural awareness, empathy and perseverance to carry them through the good times and the bad (thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

So we took the city bus downtown to eat breakfast, riding along with locals, hipsters and UCSC students, and then we walked (and pushed) back home nearly three miles. A bit much, but worth the extra "umph" for me and the Mama. Plus, we stopped at parks along the way home for the girls to play, play, play.

Right on. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What Be Coming Next And What Becoming's Like

We smuggled the girls into the boat. More accurately -- we smuggled their fears into the boat. We knew the journey wasn't for the faint of heart, but it's an experience we wanted to share as a family. We left under the faux of night, fireflies pierced the darkness around us as the river carried us towards underground caverns that eventually led to the open sea. We passed a ramshackle river shack with an old man rocking slowly on his porch. He didn't say a word, just watched us float on by.

We'd debated it off and on all morning, whether or not we should make them take the journey into pirate infested waters and the visceral booty beyond. We knew it might be quite overwhelming for them, maybe leaving a mental scar or two, and yet we figured it was time to take the trip from our port of call to New Orleans to the Caribbean and back again.

To Anaheim, that is.

"There will be a few drops down the river, girls," the Mama told Beatrice and Bryce. "But only a few."

Bea huddled closely to me in the boat and pressed her ear muffs tightly to her ears.

"When's it going to be over?" she asked, before we even got to the first fall.

Although Bryce wore her ear muffs as well, she sat up straight and took it all in, a huge smile lighting up the darkness.

After the boat trip was over, "yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me" still ringing in our ears, Bea was happy to be done with it.

"What did you think?" we asked.

"It was a little scary, but maybe we can go on again next year," Bea said.

"Did you like it, Bryce?"

"Yes!"

And so ended the first B-hive family ride through the Pirates of the Caribbean. Mercy, what a difference a year makes. Last year we took the girls for the first time to Disneyland and we definitely thought that was a win. But this year? Wow. Much bigger win.

Disneyland really isn't for the faint of heart (or easy on the pocketbook), especially when you have children easily startled and especially sensitive to auditory and visual stimuli. Lots and lots of auditory and visual stimuli. And lots and lots of people. Tens of thousands every day, and those are the slow days.

But the girls stepped up their game this year, that's for sure, experiencing exponentially more than the last. And that meant that the Mama and Daddy had to step up their "endurance" game as well. Even with the stimuli and the crowds, their collective imaginations negated any and all adulthood demons projected along their paths. Instead, they looked ahead with brave anticipation on wanting to know what be coming next and what becoming's like, willing to take risks for the greater good of personal discovery and confidence building. That's something the Mama and I really want them to embrace now and never let go of.

And to see their very souls light up with sheer joy when they met their favorite characters, especially those super-charged with positive girl power, and especially the sisters Elsa and Anna from Frozen, that made every moment the most happiest place on earth.


Friday, December 26, 2014

This Day After Christmas

"When someone breaks their heart, we have to wash it to fix it." -- Bryce Grossman

Mom raised the broom over her head and crashed the handle through the window. We froze; the breaking glass should have been louder than it was, but instead sounded as if it were inside a pillow. My sister and I stood behind her, straining to hear anything else around us, hoping that no one heard.

Especially him. But he was at work over 30 minutes away, and I kept reminding myself of that hopeful fact while Mom cleared the jagged glass away from the window frame. It was early afternoon and not too hot yet, especially since we were on the shaded side of the house. I wondered if the older neighbors next to us were home, and if we ran into trouble, would they call for help.

"Okay, honey," Mom whispered to my sister. "You're the only one who can fit through the window. Once you get inside, go open up the front door for us. Be quick about it, too."

He had already changed the door locks, which wasn't a big surprise to us, and Mom had anticipated that we'd have to break in. I couldn't even begin to fathom how much fear coursed through my sister at that very moment. But even if it pulsed through her little heart as it did mine, she didn't show it. Mom laid an old towel over the bottom of the window frame and then hiked my sister up through the window.

"I love you, honey. Just go straight to the door and open it."

And that's exactly what she did. Before going inside, I turned quickly to see if anyone on our street was watching, but all was quiet. Once inside it felt darker than I remembered just a few days prior, the air heavy and stale. It pressed in on us from every direction, changing atmospheres with every step.

Mom handed us each a trash bag. "We have to be quick about this, so look for anything we missed and put it in your bag. Take only what you can carry and then we're leaving."

The house was immaculately clean, which was unsettling considering how much of a mess it was only a few days earlier as we moved our stuff out with five officers in the driveway ensuring our safety. One of those officers was the man I'd eventually call Dad, and it took every single ounce of his police professionalism to remain calm while the crazy one shouted horrible obscenities at Mom. My "almost dad" knew just as his fellow officers knew there was nothing they could do, except keep us safe.

I opened the refrigerator and gazed inside. There was really nothing I wanted, considering we were never allowed anything more than bologna for sandwiches, mustard and Miracle Whip. We hadn't starved living with him, but we weren't allowed anything more than a few staples most of the time. Bologna has very few creative variations and I had experimented with all of them. I actually smiled for a minute.

But then a car drove by and again the wildfires of constant fear returned. I imagined that, as soon as I closed the refrigerator and turned around, he'd be standing there holding a gun and smiling his crazy smile, the same gun he'd pointed at Mom many times before. He'd already tried to kill her, more than once, including poisoning her, and he'd already abused me more than once, my sister absorbing it all like furniture nailed to the floor in a perpetually flooded room.

He wasn't there, though. Only Mom and my sister, full trash bags in hand.

"I love you," Mom said. "Time to go. We're going to be okay now."

And for the most part, we were. Bryce is right, although the washing can take decades, which is why the Mama and I thankfully have some control over the "heartbreaking," at least until both girls are on their own as young adults.

This day after Christmas I again remember and renew my vow to help educate and end domestic violence and sexual abuse. A nice thought if we could ever get there, but at least we can try. This holiday season, the next time you’re in a room with 6 people, think about the following (according to statistics compiled by NOMORE.org):

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes.
  • 1 in 3 teens experience sexual or physical abuse or threats from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year.
  • 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape.
  • 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
Help give a voice to those who can't find their own, so that maybe someday the most wonderful time of the year will be everyday.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Almost Theres

"There's been trials and tribulations
You know I've had my share
But I've climbed the mountain, I've crossed the river
And I'm almost there…"

—"Almost There" lyrics, Princess and the Frog


Isn't that always the way it is? You've worked hard all year and you're finally on the verge of success, or maybe ultimate glory, or maybe partial nirvana, or maybe incremental awareness, or maybe you turned a blind corner blindly...

Ah yes, you're almost there. But where is almost there?

Life is like that -- sets of disparate swirling scatter plots, loosely correlated and connected in a vast universe that sometimes feels really small, accessible and attainable; while other times it, does, not.

But now that I've lived nearly half a century, fairly unscathed by violence or mayhem (except as a child and that which is emotionally self-inflicted as an adult), and surviving multiple economic swings -- everyday is a series of scatter plots, infinitesimally intimate mulit-colored actions and reactions that take the shape of moving pictures like "Dear Diary" flip books.

And we do love collecting flip books, don't we. Especially at Christmastime, when reflecting on this year and years past ups and downs, always heres and almost theres is the perennial pastime.

My "almost theres" are the three points of bright light that keep me moving and loving, hopeful and happy.

Merry Christmas my dearest B-hive. Keep the flip books coming.



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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Does anyone have a hurt or hurt feelings?

“Just don't grow up so fast
You don't want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don't you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain't just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don't grow up so fast…”

—Train


And so it begins, innocent as it was. One of Beatrice's friends and classmates smirked when she heard her last name.

"Your name is gross?"

"No, it's Grossman."

Her friend laughed. And then they both moved on to other little girl playtime. Beatrice didn't get it; she was literally all about her last name and how to say it, not knowing what "gross" meant. Yet. We worry because Beatrice may always be more naive than her classmates, and the eventual fallout to come once she realizes that someone is really trying to hurt her could be devastating.

Again, this time it was innocent enough, but the ramifications of future hurt feelings are more and more evident as she, and her little sister, get older.

Yes, that's life when we're growing up, and they'll need to go through the hurt and the happy, the sporadic bad times and the sometimes fleeting good, no matter how much we want to protect them. Yes, they'll have to learn how to be resilient, to adapt and to overcome.

We're still on the front end of awareness, of them flailing about because someone was purposely being mean to them, supposed friend or not. But that'll come soon enough. It always does.

In the meantime, let the children play, right? Hey, the doctor is in anyway. Funny how what we grew up with is new again to our girls. A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a big hit in our house, and although the girls only have a vague awareness of how Charlie Brown is treated, they got it enough to know how Dr. Lucy was trying to help Charlie Brown. Kind of.

Does anyone have a hurt or hurt feelings? Dr. Bryce is in.




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Grateful For It All Either Way

“…even my wonder, even my fear, only amount to a couple of tears. There is a rhythm, it's near and it's far — it flows through the heart of us…” --Duncan Sheik 

We fixate so much on the crazy and what's broken that we nearly all but negate the good and what works, of how far we've actually come.

I'm reminded of this everyday with my loving, pragmagical wife who keeps our family propelled in a healthy direction, and me grounded in the good, since I tend to drift from hopeful romanticism to flippant defensive posturing in times of stress.

I'm reminded of this everyday with our caring, smart, uniquely (head)strong, and beautiful little girls who keep me hopeful of a potentially utopian future they'll help create, and who keep the Pop hopping popping.

These words may not console those who struggle daily with any and all the miserable facets of tragic human fallibility, but I'm thankful we all have the capacity to elevate the haggard human spirit when we really need it, and even when we think we don't.

And of late, some of us really need it. I'm grateful for it all either way.

Godspeed and Happy Thanksgiving.