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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bea-day Baby and Matted Cat make a family of 4. A.M.

Pretty used to that now - the morning window of 3-5 where baby wakes every other morning and gets pulled into bed, and Chelsea our poor matted 300-year-old cat sleeps between our heads and gets up and down from bed multiple times in that same darn morning window.

Yesterday was the official first Bea-day and last night we spent part of it combing and cutting matted hair out of our cat. Chelsea growled, hissed and howled and Beatrice thinks she's playing.

Rock on with your bad birthday self, Ms. Beatrice.

Oh, but what an elevating journey it's been with baby in year one! Three years ago we never would've imagined the delicate and delectable little creature we created.

Three years ago we didn't want no destructive or detestable little creatures; they were lovely in other peoples yards, like lawn gnomes that moved and broke stuff at night.

Last night one year ago at 7:08 p.m., Beatrice came into the world with a bang. Or more like a pop since her arm was stuck over her head preventing her from passing Mama's pubic bone and being born at home. Twenty-four hours before that we were watching the primetime Emmys.

Beatrice, why did you send Mama to the hospital?

I remember chaos, staying up all night, Mama exhausted, rushing her to the hospital, broken birthing equipment and blood. Scary and surreal. In fact so surreal that I couldn't quite grasp being paralyzed; I knew nothing else but elevating my presence for Amy. We had no previous experience with anything remotely close, no other life preservers but each other, clinging fast our hands with Amy on the table and me standing above her prior to Bea's arrival. Out in the world our friends and families prayed.

Then, a floppy baby crying with a torpedo head being cleaned up, weighed and measured.

Last month one of my favorite writers and musicians, Neil Peart, recently had a baby girl (he's 57 - and I thought I was an older daddy!). He wrote a wonderful essay about the final months of his wife's pregnancy, baby hummingbirds in the backyard, and the fear of what could go wrong considering he lost his first wife and daughter 12 years earlier.

Oh, how I felt this way growing up:

When I was a boy of six or seven, I remember fervently believing that I could prevent bad things from happening if I worried about them enough. Now I recognize that atavistic urge as a primitive kind of prayer, and I was still superstitious enough then to believe in magical thinking. Hoping to escape being found out in a lie, or punished for something I had accidentally broken, I would worry about it long and hard. If, despite all that prayer, my crime were discovered, I would decide that I had simply not worried enough. All unknowing, I had invented my own little religion, the Church of Worry, and it worked the same as all the others: If something bad happens, it’s your fault for not having prayed enough.

This time, I guess I must have prayed enough—so far, at least. On August 12, 2009, Olivia Louise Peart hatched into the world.

Amen, Neil. We celebrated Bea's first birthday with my parents a few weeks ago and then had a big shindig this past weekend with friends and family.

Bea had such a great time. (Well, besides the birthday singing and everybody staring, she did have a great time).

What a beautiful daughter we have.

The Church of Worry takes a heavy tithing toll, and if I've learned anything from the first year with baby, I've learned that with magical thinking we make what is meant to Bea.

Always. Even if she forces plastic geometric shapes into my mouth.

Happy Birthday Baby!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today I am haunted harmony. Today I am alive.

"And now we'll gather in the shadow of your family tree
In haunted harmony
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come..."*

I drop off the books to my book buddies at the assisted living facility and head to the office. I pull onto Ocean Street and head toward Highway 1, my view awash with sun and sky.

Then I see it, what I saw a week before while cleaning the windshield; what I heard two weeks before while we drove back home from the emergency trip to Visalia: the chip in the top right corner, bleeding tiny spider veins its center.

One of my book buddies - a melancholy man of 82 with no children, living family or close friends - told me today he didn't belong there, that there's nothing to do, that all the residents are senile or sick, that I should keep working and never retire, that I should never be alone; even reading doesn't fill his emptiness.

He suffers from depression. He takes meds that don't work. He's lays there on his small bed, telling me these things, nothing else in his room except his floor lamp and an dark green recliner, which isn't his. Prior to this visit he didn't say much while sharing a somewhat sunny disposition with a wink and a smile and a "thank you, I haven't read that one yet."

I tell him my baby is turning one. He smiles and tells me how great that is. I tell him he should get out and walk in the sunshine, because he can. He smiles and says, "I'm not interested, but thanks."

He says, "I have no incentive to live. I'd be better off if I had passed away. I don't belong here."

No mention of God, of love, of hope. No elevate patch.

I start to say something, then pull my lips together and nod. Then I say, "You should get out and walk."

He nods politely. I wish him well, telling him more books on their way soon.

I pull onto Highway 1, the windshield's upper right corner mocking me, reminding me of imperfection, of falling apart, of an old idea whose time has come.

***

It's last Friday and I put on Bea's shoes. We go outside and she walks unsteadily but
determined, grasping two of my fingers to balance her stride. I have to bend down slightly so as not to pull her arm up too much.

I tell her, "You're going to help daddy water some plants."

She babbles and says, "A-da, a-da, phhrrumph."

I smile. She smiles, trips and twists. I grab her other arm quickly to prevent hurting her, and then we're on our way again.

Bea in one hand and filled watering can in the other, I proceed to water.

"How's my baby?" I ask. She babbles and woots. I smile.

The pepper tree we saved from certain death almost two summers past grows tall and lush in the upper right of the backyard, its leaves bleeding spider veins from its center. To the right of it is where a future Bea fort will stand, where she'll play and dream and grow tall and lush.

Bea woots. "Da-da, a-da."

We enter the garage, open the door and walk down the steep driveway. Bea staggers forward but doesn't twist or fall. We water a few more plants out front then walk slowly back up the driveway.

Once inside, she babbles and woots some more. I take off her shoes and she toddles off for her fuzzy.

She takes it gingerly, plunks her left thumb in her mouth, then rotates the fuzzy until she finds the best corner of all time.

Comforted, I smile. Bea turns one very soon, and we didn't break her. Phew.

"A-da," she says. Babble. Woot.

Then she trips over her fuzzy and falls.

***

Today I am haunted harmony. Today I am alive.

I long for Mama and Bea.


*Lyrics from "Family Tree" by TV On The Radio

Friday, September 11, 2009

I remember hope.

It was spring 2003 and cold.

I remember how Amy cried while she wrote a note on the makeshift construction wall above Ground Zero.

I remember how others stopped quietly at the wall, tilting their heads to read, some adding their own notes.

I remember the signs, candles and flowers along the metal fencing.


I remember watching the construction crews work below in the footprint pits where thousands perished.

I remember children watching along with me.

I remember Amy reading the wall, placing her palm on it as if feeling for a heartbeat.


I remember the shadow ash that laced the buildings facing the emptiness within.

I remember how blue the sky was, just as it was a year and a half earlier.


I remember someone praying next to me, how it made me cry.

I remember when we left, we didn't speak.


I remember we held hands.


I remember hope.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Multitasking: a liberal collective of misfiring synapses jet skiing through a hurricane

This may get me in trouble with a lot of mommies (and some daddies) for saying this, but we really can't multitask effectively.

In fact, it just ain't happenin'; there is no such thing as effective multitasking. It's a myth of epic proportions.

What you've got is a liberal collective of misfiring synapses jet skiing through a hurricane. How focused can you be on anything in that?

You can't. In fact, in today's constant barrage of information in our lives from work and play and everything in between, we're so easily distracted it's no wonder our children find us to be adults with ADD.

We make them cry (for our attention).

According to a recent Stanford research study on multitasking:

Social scientists have long assumed that it's impossible to process more than one string of information at a time. The brain just can't do it. But many researchers have guessed that people who appear to multitask must have superb control over what they think about and what they pay attention to.

But after a series of tests:

Heavy multitaskers underperformed the light multitaskers.

Every time. As opposed to really trying to focus and executing on linear tasks, improving the quality of work and life. At least that's what I believe.

Okay, you may argue with me that you've raised three children while running board meetings and blogging simultaneously out of your own living room, productively, efficiently and effectively.

I ain't buying it. I'm lost in the heart of the information hurricane everyday and struggle to focus what needs to be focused on and ignore what should be ignored. Women's brains may fire differently than men's, but the research is pretty clear. Multitasking is painfully ineffective. Another post from a blog I read related how poor multitasking affected customer service at an airline.

But it can happen anywhere at anytime - poor customer service - and when it affects your family and children, that spells trouble, even danger.

Yesterday my daddy daycare Friday turned into a 1/40/70 sandwich yesterday (with baby and parents). Love them all, but the only way to get through that is to focus on one task at a time.

Unitasking means improved productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and safety first.