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, March 26, 2017

Into the Open Air

It's strange because I've never gone skydiving. Yet that's what I imagined in order to stay focused while she read to me. Metaphorically falling fast through the air with literally no ability to think about anything else except the unrelenting presence of those seconds. 

And it worked. At least the idea of it helped to narrow my flailing attention to a fine focal point mindful presence. 

There's just been too much going on up in my noggin of late. Work, travel and seemingly a gazillion decisions to make and actions to take every day. And that's not even counting the other gazillion decisions and actions to make every day at home and helping to take care of each other and our children. That's not unusual for many people today raising a family and keeping a roof overhead, food on the table and squirreling some nuts away for always imminent rainy days. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) experiences it even more than I do, being the primary child-rearer as well as working, running a girl scout troop and now volunteering more. Something I'm doing more of now as well.

Of course not all of what we do are absolute necessities, but they are important activities nonetheless that give us personal joy, like the writing of these pieces for my blog, Get Off The Ground. They are critical to our personal learning and development, our passions and even our sanity. We are fortunate enough to be able to do these things while still squirreling those nuts away and praying for continual sunny days.

And every day the Mama works with our girls on reading and getting their homework done. Beatrice has more homework than Bryce being in 2nd grade, reading and math in particular, although Bryce has recommended work in her combined kindergarten/1st grade class.

The Mama does most of this work with the girls. It can be quite rewarding and very frustrating at the same time, since like most kids wanting to only play, doing homework is a painful distraction from just that. The girls could be playing with their toys, playing with our Guinea pigs, playing games on their iPads, drawing pictures, writing stories or watching a little television.

"Beatrice, it's time to read and do your reading log," says the Mama.

"No, I don't want to right now," replies Beatrice.

"The longer you take doing it means the longer it will take overall."

Sigh. "Okay."

Homework happens both before school and after (there's a lot of homework for 2nd graders these days). Sometimes it all goes well, and sometimes the Mama gets frustrated with the girls. And with me too, because maybe I'm sitting there working or even writing like I'm doing this moment, when she could really use some more help than what I usually give in the homework department.

So I do more helping now. As it should be, helping my children learn and grow, because that isn't an optional requirement of parenting -- it's required parenting. Beatrice has also needed more focused investment due to the early delays she's had.

However, the other morning, when the Mama called down to me from upstairs to "please help Beatrice with her reading," my head was a flutter with a gazillion butterfly effects and other things to do. Beatrice sat next to me and started reading out loud Miss Brown Is Upside Down! and I didn't her a word she said for the first minute.

I'm the one who preaches about mindful presence and being in the moment and focusing on the things that matter in the immediacy -- and yet it's a continuous struggle when there are a gazillion things to be done, which there always will be. This time, for whatever reason, the image of me jumping out of a plane and into the open air, literally jumped out of a plane and into the open air.

I jumped and still remained tethered to the mothership of my frontal lobes. Nothing else mattered except me falling over 100 miles per hour, my cheeks pulled back and flapping in the rushing wind, while Beatrice read next to me. Within seconds everything went silent around me as I fell, except for Bea. All I could focus on was her forming and speaking each word, her cadence and her periodic query about how to say a word that wasn't familiar. She finished her 15 minutes of reading and then had to pick one of the exercises in her reading log to complete. I read the choices and she picked the one where she had to identify 10 action words from the book and write them down.

Afterwards, I pulled the cord, my parachute opened and yanked me up and away from Beatrice, and then I floated gently back down into the cacophony of a gazillion decisions to make and actions to take.

Beatrice's depiction of Daddy's metaphor

Monday, March 20, 2017

Let's Keep Talking About It: April Is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Here's the thing -- we just don't like to talk about it. 

And I get it. I do. For those of us who have young daughters, my wife and I included, none of us want to imagine what could happen to them at the hands of a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or a significant other, or a spouse, or simply a "date" they've known for less than 24 hours. 

If we only pray, then we pray that God will watch over them so they're safe, always, as well as our boys, to ensure they become better men and treat other women and men with respect and empathy.

If we only hope, then we hope the same sentiment as the prayer. 

And if we go beyond the prayers and hope, and do our part to create awareness and prevention, we can make and do make a difference in the lives of our children and teens (and even the adults in our lives). It isn't easy, because it's an uncomfortable conversation for even those of us currently involved in awareness and prevention. 

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.

That's millions, mind you. It's horrific and complicated, and yet prevention and awareness still seems to be one of the best paths forward for children, teens and us all. 

I'm proud to have been selected to serve on the City of Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, to contribute my time to help generate awareness and prevention locally within our community as well as work with local law enforcement, and to help reduce the incidence of domestic violence and sexual assault.

For those of us with children, girls and boys alike, we have an ultimate responsibility to instill in them their own sense of personal responsibility, empathy, compassion, to be safe with their bodies and their minds, and not react inappropriately and violently. We need to be clear that violence against women and girls, and men and boys, including sexual assault, harassment, bullying or anything related is never okay.

Here's the thing -- let's keep talking about it. 

Join us in April (and year round) in giving voice to those who feel they don't have one, in particular victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The following local events and activities are happening in April (and the April 26 events are happening all over):

6:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. – Santa Cruz County Courthouse

The goal for this observance is to increase public awareness of the impact that crime has on individuals and on communities.  Participants will meet on the steps of the County Courthouse on Ocean Street and walk to Santa Cruz City Hall on Center Street.  For more information, please contact Sylvia Nieto at Victim/Witness Services at (831) 454-2010. 

April 26, Wednesday – DENIM DAY – WEAR YOUR JEANS
All Day – Everywhere 

Why Denim? The campaign was originally triggered by a 1999 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Make a point to wear Denim on this day to challenge one of the myths surrounding sexual assaults. For more information, please contact the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women at (831) 420-5010 or and visit

April 26, Wednesday – WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES 
5:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. – Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz, CA (or find one near you)

Join fellow community members as we put on our fanciest high heels to speak out against sexual violence in our community. Men, women, kids, and dogs will be teetering on heels down West Cliff to raise awareness and create a safer Santa Cruz County.  

Walk as an individual or gather a team. You can also donate hereAll proceeds raised will support sexual assault survivors and their families through counseling, legal advocacy, and medical assistance, as well as teen dating violence prevention programs in local junior high and high schools.  

The goal of this free, two-hour workshop is to find ways how to respond effectively in difficult situations, as well as raise awareness regarding sexual assault for community members and agencies.  To schedule a workshop for your business, friends, church, or agency, contact the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women at (831) 420-5010 or

Here's the thing -- our children are counting on us.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Dog That Ate The Moon

“Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored.” —Patricia A. McKillip

Back then it was The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators. Stories of boys, teenagers actually, solving mystery after mystery, with lots of action and adventure along the way, plus encountering and then explaining strange phenomena. I read what seemed like hundreds of these books, from the day of first getting my library card around 3rd grade until early adolescence. I never actually counted the number, though. I just kept on reading and reading.

And I wrote my own mystery stories and illustrated them as well. I even sent one of the detective stories I wrote in 6th grade to a publisher and never hear a word either way. In retrospect, they were cathartic creative explorations that allowed me to escape a sometimes harsh environment of domestic violence and sexual abuse. My imagination gave me an outlet to create fantastical worlds with words and images, sometimes just designing inventions I longed to make real, made up or based on something that inspired me, yet never fully realizing them in real life. Like the time I desperately tried to figure out had to turn my little red wagon into Herbie the Love Bug.

Then there was my long-running obsession with fantasy, like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, two of my favorite series. In fact, in junior high I actually learned to write in Dwarvish runes. Really, I did. And I had a whole bunch of amazing nerdy friends that did, too. And Elvish and more. Also, for a short while early in college I played Dungeons and Dragons and my character was a bad-ass Dwarf who wielded a deadly battle-ax.

That's why imagination cannot be ignored as Patricia McKillip wrote above, regardless of circumstance. To me it was and is a wide-eyed monster that never sleeps and must be fed constantly. Whether growing up with violence, or a much more stable and loving environment, one that the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I have been able to provide for our girls, our imaginations have boded well for us for thousands of years of evolution and survival. It's helped us to innovate and problem solve and advance our fragile but resilient species as well as given us a powerful storytelling ability and varying filters and perceptions and differing ways to see and explain the world around us. We imagined gods and devils and reasons for living a good and just life.

Beatrice and Bryce have been imagining and articulating various worlds, creatures, science, inventions and stories since the very moment they could speak. Us encouraging imaginative play and reading, along with their teachers and others, have also helped to feed their creative beasts.

We just had a full moon and that evening the Mama said, "Since we have to spring forward with the time change, why don't we go down to the water before bedtime to see it. Otherwise it'll be lighter later and we won't be able to go."

At first I said, "Ugh. Really?" But I knew these were the moments to never let slip by, so I changed my tune.

"Okay, let's do it. It'll be fun."

The girls were excited, something adventurous to do before bedtime, so off we went. It had finally warmed a bit to our usual early spring nice weather, and the night was lovely. As we walked along the water with the girls running ahead of us, they began to imagine stories about the moon and the stars.

Bea came up with her own folk story, one about a dog named J.J. who stole a rocket ship from an unnamed man. J.J. flew to the moon in the rocket ship, not because he wanted to be an astronaut, but because he thought the moon was a waffle, and he was hungry and wanted to eat the waffle. (Both girls love pancakes and waffles.)

However, he soon found out that the moon wasn't a waffle at all -- it was just a big yucky rock glowing in the night sky -- so J.J. spit out the pieces, creating a meteor shower that lit up the night sky.

And this is why we have meteor showers. Right on, Bea.

That's when it struck me -- the fact that, this folk tale that Bea created from her own limited but pretty positive experiences to date and her own imaginative interpretation, was a metaphor for the beauty of life around us. Prevalent for some, fleeting for others.

And the fact that sometimes we all have to eat big yucky rocks to see the light.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Slippery Slope to Dogs and Cats

Who knew what the Cavia porcellus could do. We certainly never imagined. Refused to imagine actually. After Jumpy Tree Summer and Goldie Rose Macaroni, that was it. No matter how much the girls worked on us for something else. No more domestic tragedies. No more fuss. No more muss.

But then a friend had four she needed to find a home for because her family was moving. Two brothers, a sister and their mother. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) talked with me about them, although we'd said previously, "Forget it -- not going to happen."

Until it eventually does.

The Mama showed me pictures. She showed the girls pictures. She told me we'd get a cage for them as well. She told me we'd probably only take either the boys or the girl and the mother, but not all four, which seemed to sound better. We talked about the pros and cons. We talked about how the girls would have to help care for them, to help feed them and clean their cage. We talked about how we'd have to find someone to care for them when we'd go on vacations.

Then she asked me, "What do you think? Should we take them?"

To which I replied, "Okay."

And that was all she wrote.

What's funny is this is exactly how it went nine years earlier when we talked about having the girls. We'd come off of another fun road trip through the Southwest, and it was during this trip where the idea of having kids finally began to chip away at our adamant decision to initially not have them. So there we were, sitting at the bar of our favorite pub, eating burgers, drinking beers and playing Scrabble on our then travel board (before the iPad application), and I look at the Mama ask:

“So, do you want to have a kid?”

Without missing a beat, or looking back at me as she formed her next word on the board, she said:


And that was it. We didn’t talk about again until the next morning. And then one week later we started trying to have a family, the eventual #BhivePower.

Back to the Cavia porcellus -- the Guinea pigs -- these plump, colorful, docile balls of purring snuggly fur. Actually, they make a lot of different noises including a "wheek" -- a loud noise, the name of which is onomatopoeic, also known as a whistle. An expression of general excitement, it may occur in response to the presence of its owner or to feeding. It is sometimes used to find other guinea pigs if they are running. If a guinea pig is lost, it may wheek for assistance.

They're pretty adorable. They look more like rabbits sans the long ears, but much more cuddly. Oh my, are they cuddly. So we took the mother and her daughter and adopted them into our family. The girls named them Dandelion Clover (the little girl) and Sweetheart Watermelon (the mother). I joked with the Mama that this would be the slippery slope to dogs and cats.

"No. No, it's not," she said. "Not going to happen."

Until it eventually does.

Never mind that the little cuties only live about four to eight years. And that they've been bred as food for thousands of years. And have been used in folk medicine and religious ceremonies. And were used in biological experiments. None of which we've shared with the girls except for the longevity part, because they asked.

But when it comes to helping further develop empathy and engagement and taking care of another living "thing" -- and to turning off the TV and the devices (which we're quite guilty of using as distracting surrogates), we're all in.

Who knew what the Cavia porcellus could do.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

All the Faith I Can Muster

Again with the silver and gold wars. The economics of labor, competitive advantage, business growth and profits have always broken the backs of, divided and suppressed the masses. The haves and the have nots remain seemingly affixed to their hierarchical posts regardless of the -ism present: capitalism, socialism, populism, racism, sexism, humanism, spiritualism, ad nauseam. And then we rise up, we blow things up, become bitterly fragmented and hopefully come back together -- and it still comes back to the silver and gold wars.

But our girls don't really know all this yet. They haven't been discriminated against yet being women, or have been singled out to benefit over other women because they're white. They haven't been paid 80 cents on the the dollar to what their male counterparts get paid. They haven't been verbally harassed or physically abused because of their gender, or enslaved in a third-world country to make things we buy in our civilized super stores worldwide.

Thankfully there have been and are positive, collaborative movements that help us thrive within our own tainted Eden, men and women alike of various races, ethnicities, social class and religious backgrounds. Like the emboldened local Women's March that the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) helped to organize with other inspirational women and where our entire family (and community) had marched in. The global movement included millions of people around the world actually and is still strong in its positive insurgency. Like the magnet the Mama's mom got her recently -- KIND HEART * FIERCE MIND * BRAVE SPIRIT -- these words epitomize my wife and our girls and continuously inspire me.

Every few decades we experience a social upheaval, and here we are again -- from financial collapse and hope and change to the Tea Party a few years ago, to Bernie and Hillary and Donald Trump today. To the Women's March and the raucous town halls with our elected representatives throughout America where we demand that the many are acknowledged and their socioeconomic needs addressed by the few in power, not the other way around.

But our girls don't really know all this yet. Some of it, but not all of it. We talk about it and answer their questions generally. We also read to them about what's come before; we have a couple of the great picture books by Brad Meltzer about how "ordinary people can change the world." One about Rosa Parks and the other about Abraham Lincoln. For those with younger children, we highly recommend them. They tackle some pretty big adult subjects and make them accessible for kids' sensibilities and world views (and adults as well). We've read them many times with the girls.

Recently we read the I am Abraham Lincoln one again, and when we got to the part about the American Civil War, Bryce interrupted.

"You know, there are many silver wars all the time, but you know, there are gold wars, too. I've seen them."

"You mean civil wars, Sweetie," the Mama said.

Bryce shook her head. "No, silver wars, Mommy. Silver and gold wars."

Again with the silver and gold wars, the -ism's and the ad nauseam. We, the ordinary people, are again blowing things up in this country, and around the world, and I hope we can figure out how to put it all back together again for the better, knowing that silver and gold are here to stay. Hope may be a poor business strategy, but faith can sure as hell be a sound human one.

And for the sake of our kids, and yours, I'm holding on to all the faith I can muster. My girls got my back on that one.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why We Celebrate Our Crazy Little Thing

“This thing (this thing)
Called love (called love)
It cries (like a baby)
In a cradle all night
It swings (woo woo)
It jives (woo woo)
It shakes all over like a jelly fish
I kinda like it
Crazy little thing called love…”

—Queen, Crazy Little Thing Called Love

I didn't really get it until days later. Yes, it was our Valentine's Day family date afternoon/night, and we did spend quality time together as a family, for the most part.

First, the girls and I needed to get our flu shots, being overdue in that department and still in the throes of flu season. Plus, I'm going to be traveling again soon, and will be exposed to all sorts of bugs Americana. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) had already gotten hers months earlier since she works in physical therapy and helps older, more susceptible patients who live in assisted-living facilities and also those who have home health care.

Kaiser Permanente is new to our area and now has a downtown office in Santa Cruz, so that's where we went for our flu shots. We switched to Kaiser recently due to the rising costs of health care for families (don't get me started) and the fact that their services are more reasonable (by far and so far) compared to what we had (which had increased by over 25%), along with us having Direct Primary Care, all of which is a whole other Get Off The Ground article for another time.

The shots didn't take very long -- I went first, and then Beatrice, and then Bryce -- but before the nurse practitioner had the needle ready and poised for Bryce's arm, Bryce erupted in tears. She's never been a fan of the shots. Who is, right? She cried and shook her head and said she didn't want the shot and cried and shook her head.

We all told her it would be a quick pinch, but she just kept crying and shaking her head while the Mama held her. Finally she stood still enough for the nurse to give her the shot, and then Bryce wailed and cried even louder. The nurse left and came back in with rubber duckies for both girls and that perked Bryce up.

Then we were off to Bookshop Santa Cruz to buy books the girls had earned and for a Reading Flash Mob -- of which I had no idea what that was. Bookshop Santa Cruz has been an iconic community bookstore for over 50 years now. I came to learn that the reading flash mob was a gathering for kids and adults alike to come and literally read any book in the store for about an hour, whether purchased or not.

What I didn't know about the event (even though I'm sure the Mama told me more than once) was that the Live Like Coco Foundation, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit, and the Santa Cruz Playground Project launched this series of “Reading Flash Mob” fundraisers to fund literacy panels at Leo’s Haven, the county’s first playground for children of all abilities.

And so we read for a great cause. Wait, two great causes. No, three great causes that included our own love of reading. We also found out that the Live Like Coco Foundation's executive director had a daughter named Coco who had died in a car crash at age 12. And so the foundation was founded to celebrate her spirit and for us all to "do good things" in our lives and in our community. Right on.

Out of all the amazing books at the bookstore, Bryce of course chose Dog Man Unleashed, another silly graphic novel series for kids from the creator of Captain Underpants (tra-la-la!). I read nearly the whole book to her during that inspirational hour while the Mama and Beatrice read to each other.

After that we were off to our family Valentine's Day dinner. All of us were hungry and we had a wonderful time -- until we didn't. Well, not the girls, the Mama and me. This is what happens sometimes in the adulting world. Life trips up your mindful happy along the way and fall flat on your fallible face. We both started worrying about our work and our commitments and the weeks aheads and all the other American crazy breaking down all around us, and then when one of us nearly dropped a plate at the end of the meal -- ka-boom.

We both got angry with each other unnecessarily and it deflated some of fun Valentine family we'd been having since the flu shots. For us at least, but thankfully not for the girls. The Mama and I survived the adulting fall and apologized, reminding each other that it's okay be get mad sometimes as long as we acknowledge it, own it and reconcile it. It still takes longer for me than the Mama, and yet we always get back to the heart of each other.

I didn't really get it until days later. Yes, a family bond is a crazy little thing called love, no matter how mad we may sometimes get with one another. And we will. And there will be more ka-booms between all of us as the girls get older. And more tears and shouts and laughter and love. And yet I cannot imagine, do not want to imagine, if any one of the ladies in my life -- these suns that rise in my heart each and every morning -- were gone.

This is why we stay in our moments as much as we can, hold fast to each one and each other, and celebrate our crazy little thing.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Until It Eventually Does

A week later Goldie Rose Macaroni was gone. She hadn't done very well from day one, barely eating all week, lethargic and listing, one of her fins slightly smaller and sickly like Nemo's.

"What should we do?" asked the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife). "I don't want to find her floating when the girls get home. Not after Jumpy."

"I don't know," I said. "Maybe we should just put her out of her misery and then tell the girls what happened, that she was sick and died."

The Mama shook her head. "No, we should tell them that we had to take her back to the pet store to see if the pet doctor can help her feel better."

I shook my head. "I'm not sure that's a good idea. They know things die. Jumpy died. We should just be straight with them."

Again she shook her head. "No, that's just too much right now and I don't want to worry about it, or them worry about it. Let's just tell them she went back to the store, and if she's gets well, then we'll bring her home."

I nodded. "Okay, that's fine. I get it. Although they may not buy it. What should we do with Goldie then?"

"You take care of it. I don't want to see it."

I knew what that meant. It was the only thing to do. One of the only humane ways to deal with dying or dead pet fish: the toilet flush.

"You take care of it."

"I will."

This was the second fish pet in two years. The first real pet the girls ever had, named Jumpy Tree Summer, was a handsome Betta that lived for over a year and half before he passed. We'd been at my sisters for Thanksgiving last year, and prior to leaving Jumpy hadn't been looking so good. Lethargic and listing, all his usual deep burgundy flowing fins were fraying and he looked more and more sickly. Then he'd stopped eating. We were only going to be gone for a few days, but just weren't sure he'd make it.

Which he didn't. The Mama saw him floating as soon checked out the tank, and while I continued to unload the car from our trip and the girls were playing in the living room, she took care of him.

Later that evening, the full impact of losing Jumpy hit both Bryce and Beatrice head on. They cried and cried, and although Jumpy wasn't ever a pet they could hold, hug or stroke lovingly -- or the fact that the Mama was the one who took care of him, keeping his tank clean and feeding him every day --  he was still their first pet, the one they picked out at the pet store and brought home. The one that died, because everything dies, and not something we had to address since my parents had died four years earlier when they were much younger.

So they cried and cried, and even the Mama and I teared up. Prior to having the girls, we had three pets between us -- I had an adopted black and white Shih Tzu named Joshua, and the Mama had two cats from the same litter, a black and white boy named Charlie and a Calico girl named Chelsea. All three lived pretty long lives, with Chelsea living to be 22 years old. She was still living after Bryce was born and Beatrice was constantly pulling Chelsea's tail, something no cat ever likes. But in the end we had to put all three to sleep, an emotionally draining experience for anyone who's ever had to say goodbye to a beloved pet. Each time it was me taking them to the vet's office, holding them in the cold, white vet examining room, holding them in their final moments, balling my eyes out.

Because they are like our children, and siblings, an no one likes to lose a member of the family. And yet, after they've gone and you have growing kids of your own, you don't ever want another pet again, at least for us that is, for now.

Why? What do you mean why? Have you ever had to take care of your beloved children? They're a lot of work, and the parent that would have to take care of the pets as well, in this case the Mama, doesn't need another mouth to feed. You feel me?

Which is why when the ultimate softening came, the Mama agreed to get a second fish. Bryce wanted to surprise Beatrice, and so they went to the pet store and picked out a goldfish -- Goldie Rose Macaroni. Beatrice was thrilled and the girls were excited to have a pet fish again.

Until a week later and the final decision for parental euthanasia intervention.

"You take care of it."

"I will."

And so I did. Farewell, Goldie. Splash. Flush. Swirl. Goodbye.

This time it was more anti-climatic, being the short-lived second, although Bryce did cry later that night, unsure of what to think about Goldie going "back to the pet store to be fixed."

That's why no more pets for now. The girls have brought up hamsters, half-heartedly attempting to negotiate, which we've shut down. But then they'll go goo-goo over puppies and kittens when we see them on TV or in the wild. There was even a point where the Mama considered getting a pot-belly pig for a pet. I have no idea what she was thinking.

Forget it. Not going to happen. Until it eventually does.