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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

All about containment and sustained quality of life. Everything else can go to hell.

During the summer of 2002 I spent over 3 months living with my parents in Visalia, CA. I had been consulting and freelancing at the time - after my previous company beached itself - which is just another way for saying the partially employed unemployed.

But that's not why I lived with them. I actually lived in Santa Cruz with my then fiance now wife Amy.

No, my father was very ill and my parents were also caretakers of my grandmother at the time. My sister lived in a house behind my parents and definitely helped out, but she had two children of her own to care for.

We, however, had none.

It was a perfect storm that I could help my family traverse. My dad pulled through. Grandma went to stay with other family temporarily. I went home.

Fast forward to today: my parents live in Oregon, 13 hours away drive time, and although they have a loving and supportive church community network, the distance takes a caretaker toll on the family.

And we now, however, have a child. A baby. A wee little dependent one.

My mother's been in the hospital two times in the past month but we could only be there for one of them. They've actually both been in and out of the hospital over the past few years - remote and out of immediate view.

We're more involved in understanding their healthcare needs these days and doing what we can to help, but it's just not the same when you don't live next door or even in the same town. Goodness, an hour away would work.

I wrote about being a sandwich earlier this year - caring for parents and baby - and we've only just begun. Thankfully one or the other of my folks have been well enough to care for the other - never simultaneously.

Unfortunately they keep making lengthy necessary/unnecessary trips that increases exponentially the probability of disaster. I love my folks, but c'mon. If they were both healthy, wealthy and wise...

But if anything bad ever happened simultaneously, or singularly tragic, on the road and away from home, that's when the universe opens and swallows us whole; into the whale belly goes Jonah.

Saints we're not. I'm just all about containment and sustained quality of life for all of us. Everything else can go to hell.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bea safe. Bea now. That's risk enough for me.

Ah, such family frolic yesterday at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Wilder Ranch State Park. We enjoyed living history demonstrations on a once working ranch and other harvest-time activities.

Including eating a ginormous steaming ear of corn on a stick, slathered in butter. That's what the pioneers did, isn't it? That and corn dogs and garlic fries and pizza, right?

Beatrice got to see many farm animals up close, like cows and chickens and goats and horses -- one of her favorite books come to life sans the pig (Piggy Wiglet and the Great Adventure).

Plopping her in the middle of a pumpkin patch was the highlight for me. So much life already. So much life ahead.

Then it was nap time -- for baby, not me. Later our babysitter arrived and Mama and I took an afternoon date at the Free Wheelin' Farm art show where a good friend gave us a Numerology reading while a DJ mixed and pumped smooth R&B club-esque tunes on the edge of an organic farm on the ocean.

We live in Santa Cruz. C'mon.

But with all the numbers and speculation of what Bea will be, and who we've become, it got me spiraling mentally around a million little time travel doorways of choice and risk.

The futures market of memory must be tethered to presence, otherwise return is worry, sadness, maybe even a little madness.

I've had enough of that in my life - the worry, sadness and madness. I prefer the here-and-now investments that rock my daddy/husband heart.

Bea safe. Bea now. That's risk enough for me.

Queue the club-esque mix...




Friday, October 23, 2009

It's not okay to look the other way. Hope, Faith, Courage, Strength - right on!

Finally got my domestic violence awareness bracelets - Hope, Faith, Courage, Strength - right on. Honored to wear it!

Last week ballroom dancing champion and So You Think You Can Dance judge, Mary Murphy, came forth with her own horrifying experience with domestic violence.


She was repeatedly raped, beaten and even suffered a miscarriage during a hellish nine-year marriage in early '80s.

It's an unfortunately all-to-familiar story for those in abusive and violent relationships, particularly the female victims. The part that I want to focus on here though is the fact that her own parents encouraged her to go back to the relationship again and again to "work it out".

In another post I stated that let's stop failing these families and start helping them with outreach, education and prevention without regard to gender, sexual preference, cultural or religious biases.

And what's worse than our own families failing us? Really. My grandparents, who I loved dearly (God rest their souls), told my mom that she "had made her own bed" and had to deal with the abuse.

Her own bed that she made and lay battered in for 12 years before she finally found the courage to get us all out of there.

There's so much shame that comes with abuse - did we bring it on ourselves? Maybe I deserve it?

Again, I loved my grandparents and it was a different time but no one deserves to be abused. It's not okay to look the other way and say work it out.

Friends and family, help those loved ones in need to help themselves get out of hell and on the healing path - including the abuser if at all possible. (Over half of the people convicted of violent crimes are first-time offenders who commit crimes against friends or family.)

Parents, tell your children young and grown it's not okay.

Hope, Faith, Courage, Strength - right on!

Purple peace out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This sh&t's not okay. Parenting leadership lacking.

I'm really frustrated. From balloon boy hoax to burning bullies - this sh&t's not okay.

I mean, get the fact that on some anecdotal teen movie level kids will be kids, and with balloon boy, parents will be kids - but again, it's not okay.

It wasn't okay yesterday and it's not okay today. Where is the parenting leadership reaching out to their children to explain to them that setting someone on fire is violent, abusive and wrong?

Where is the parenting leadership reaching out to other parents who decide they need more media coverage instead of being personally responsible for themselves and their families?

Bullying not just a boy sport either. Just search for girl fights on YouTube.

Violence is violence. Abuse is abuse. Exploitation is exploitation.

I understand that these cases are sensationalized in the media, but we need to step up as parents of our children and instill in them that it's not okay, not tell a reporter later in an interview that you had no idea your child was so violent.

Be aware and involved. Be of mindful presence with yourself and your kids. You have the biggest impact on them more than anyone else.

The cloud of domestic violence just gets bigger and bigger...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Anno Beatrice Unum. Cogito sumere potum alterum.

So, a week ago Thursday Mama came home at the end of the day and said:

"Don't freak out, Daddy."

She had just walked in the door holding Bea, back to me, and words woke me up from working on my laptop; they stung like a snapping towel.

I pulled the right rusty levers in my head to stop time.

Don't - the opposite of do, which wasn't a good way to start.

freak - definitely not the second word I wanted to hear; visions of nightmare carnies and sideshows.

out - the opposite of in, and when connected with freak, the nightmare carnies and sideshows are on the loose on our street.

Daddy - not sweetie, honey, sugar-pie, sugar-plum, hot stuff or Kevin.

"Don't freak out, Daddy. Beatrice split her head open."

I didn't want to look up. "What?"

Mama turned around and there was Bea with a big swollen knot on her forehead covered with a bandaid.

With a big splotch of blood in the middle of bandaid. (It was big to me.)

She told me the story of their play date with another mom and baby - one minute Bea's walking and the next she's falling and hitting her head on a bookcase.

I pulled other levers in my head to start time and said, "We have to go to the doctor."

Mama said, "No, we don't. Let me call Elyse and my sister."

Elyse, our baby-care person, was wonderful with our child, as was Amy's sister, neither of whom were doctors.

However, our neighbor was and so we got him to come over but he assured us that even though he was an internist, not a pediatrician, Beatrice should be fine if she wasn't blacking out, or feverish, or howling intensely non-stop.

The swelling was already going down, the cut was that bad, and Bea was walking around the house giggling.

And falling over and over and over again.

Anno Beatrice Unum. Cogito sumere potum alterum.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Snap of Failure and Myth: More on Domestic Violence Awareness

I wrote a post yesterday for my work blog at HRmarketer.com about failure:

Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall
He's cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes
Things that remind him: 'Life has been good'

Twenty-five years
He's worked at the paper
A man's here to take him downstairs
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones
It's time

--Ben Folds "Fred Jones, Part 2"

There's failure all around us. Traditional media empires are crumbling. The housing market is still a stinking landfill. VC and private equity investments are still pretty constipated. Unemployment is at its highest it's been for decades; there are over 6 unemployed people per current job opening...

This kind of economy takes it's toll on everyone, pushing people to the breaking point. When people can't handle the "snap" of such failure, we imagine many sedating with booze, cigarettes and other drugs of choice, while the propensity for domestic violence increases dramatically.

The unemployment rate for men over age 20 is 10.3 percent, up from 10.1 percent last month. Men were hit particularly hard by job cuts at factories and construction sites.

But the myth that only angry, frustrated, out-of-work, alcoholic, controlling men beat women is just that - a myth. Domestic violence knows no gender, sexual preference, cultural or religious bias. And it is too often misinterpreted.

Research paints a very different reality that what's been filtered to us:

  • One study found Mexican men who valued dominance and independence were less likely to resort to partner aggression.
  • One review concludes, “When comparing men’s and women’s use of controlling behaviors, research using nonselected samples has found that there are no differences in their overall use.”
  • Meta-analyses found no consistent link between traditional gender attitudes and partner assault.
  • A 32-nation survey documented a link between dominance and physical aggression, but the connection turned out to be stronger for female-initiated than male-initiated aggression.

In fact, according to the same report 50 Domestic Violence Myths from RADAR:

  • Nearly 250 scholarly studies show women are at least as likely as men to engage in partner aggression and that partner violence is often mutual.
  • Self-defense accounts for only 10-20% of female partner aggression.
  • Fewer than 5% of domestic violence incidents involve couples in an intact married relationship. Marriage is the safest partner relationship.
  • A need for control is not a common cause of domestic violence, and when it is, women are as likely as men to be controlling.
  • One study found 71% of civil restraining orders were unnecessary or false. Another analysis found over half of restraining orders did not involve even an allegation of violence.
  • There is no good evidence that a draconian criminal justice response deters domestic violence, but a “get tough on crime” approach may in fact place persons at greater risk of victimization.
  • False allegations of sexual abuse in fact appear to be far more common during child custody disputes.

Many of the report's myth-busting statements make you wince in disbelief; these just aren't the factoids we've been served up over the years.

The last statement of the report sums it all up:

Either we continue to disseminate misleading and false information that conforms to a self-serving ideological agenda. Or we move forward in our shared goal to help families become violence-free.

I'm all for that. Let's stop failing these families and start helping them with outreach, education and prevention without regard to gender, sexual preference, cultural or religious biases.

C'mon, fellow daddies, slap on those purple elevate patches to help curb domestic violence. Own it and help your brothers and sisters.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anniversary Vistas

October 9, 2009, Midnight

Baby teething all week. Shrieks and crying every other hour it seems. Sleep deprivation. Frustration. Amy is exhausted. I'm helpless to help soothe.


October 11, 1997, Early Afternoon

Alone on Its beach by the lighthouse, writing in journal. Shapely shadow appears. Girl in baseball cap and bikini asks:

Why are you always here alone?

I almost don't answer.

Almost.

October 10, 2009, Morning

End of workout. Stung out. Listening to B notes - songs we picked for Bea's birth. Trace Adkins' sings "You're gonna miss this".

I sit on the bench, crying joyful.

June 1, 2007, Early Evening

Burgers, beers and Scrabble at 99 Bottles. I ask:

So, do you want to have a kid?

You answer:

Okay.


October 11, 2003, Afternoon

Our wedding. Friends and family gather behind us. Amy's father marries us. Vows we wrote are read, crying joyful.


September 22, 2008, Evening

Amy pushes and pushes. 24 hours have passed – at home and the hospital. Finally OB vacuums, pulls and pop – she looks startled, falls back and smiles.

There we go. It was the arm. The baby's arm was up over its head.

I see our little Beatrice for the first time.

May 25, 2007, Early Evening

Sunset at Bryce canyon. Each of us reflecting the other's absence of doubt. A lifetime together of choosing us, without kids.

Our minds have changed.

October 11, 2009, Morning

Bea wakes and we sing her the morning song Amy wrote.

Good morning, good morning, it's time to wake up
The birds are all singing, the sun is coming up
It's a beautiful day for my baby and me
We'll laugh and we'll dance and we'll sing by the sea

Good morning, good morning, a new day is here
Full of bright, sunny smiles and good morning cheer
It's a day full of wonder and lots of good fun
So, let's get up, get going, the day have begun

Sleep deprivation, frustration, exhaustion have fled.


October 11, 2009, Afternoon

We will walk to the place we met. Vows we wrote will be read again, as they are every year on this date.

Crying joyful.

Happy Anniversary Amy!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

We've got to increase the production of purple elevate patches pronto

I pledge to raise awareness and intervene when necessary.

Because I grew up with it. No one should grow up with it. Sadly I've had too many dear friends and family that have.

Many times I've wondered why my birth father grew up to be such a train wreck. Where were the early markers? What catalysts propelled him to a life of anger, alcoholism and domestic violence? As far as I knew there wasn't any physical violence for him growing up except maybe some corporal punishment. There were definitely emotional distance and dysfunction issues with his mom, but both he and his brother had the support and love of their sister.

And what about my first step-father? Sure he was bipolar and refused to take his meds, but what drove him to abuse my mother, sister and me? His abuse was much more mysterious and insidious than my birth father's, but abuse is abuse and violence is violence. Thank God we were only with him for less than three years.

I just don't frickin' know. So happy to have the father I have now, that much is clear.

How do we break the cycle of violence? Prosecuting the abusers and incarcerating is the end game for many repeat offenders, and as it should be. And even in this dismal economy where victim services and domestic violence programs and shelters are scrambling for every penny to stay alive, what are we doing to break the cycle on the front end?

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My good friend, Kim Wells, the Executive Director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV), posted 10 Things You Can Do About Domestic Violence on her blog Domestic Violence and the Workplace. Even though I haven't met Kim in person yet, I call her my good friend because of our online connection and common cause that calls for healthy non-violent relationships.

Here are her 10 things you can do:

1) Sign the MADE petition to get dating violence curriculum in schools. Go to http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/made (did that)

2) Find out more about domestic violence. Go to http://www.clicktoempower.org/ and see the stories of survivors and what made the difference for them. (you must visit this site)

3) Go to http://www.avon.com/ and buy the Women's Empowerment Necklace or Bracelet. (I ordered a bunch of the Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Unisex Bracelet)

4) Learn about how domestic violence impacts your workplace by visiting http://www.caepv.org/. (great resources here)

5) Remember the National Domestic Violence Hotline Number: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or http://www.ndvh.org/. You can call to help others or yourself.

6) Donate your old cell phone (any brand) at any Verizon Wireless store or use free mailing label www.verizonwireless.com/hopelinemailinglabel (did that)

7) Learn to talk to your kids about healthy relationships by downloading tip booklets from http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/ (will do this)

8) Try to understand what happens in DV and how it impacts people. Check out http://www.domesticviolenceworkplace.blogspot.com/. And comment! (subscribe to this blog)

9) Don't ask "Why would that victim go back?" ask "Why would a person hit or abuse someone they love?"

10) Be safe, healthy and happy in your own relationships. Because you matter. And you deserve it. And you are very, very precious.

Here are some quick facts from Click To Empower:

  • Each day in the U.S., three women die as result of domestic violence.
  • More than one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • More than three out of four Americans know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

The last bullet is where we can help on the front end. Don't pretend it isn't happening. Be responsible and help others to learn personal responsibility and the consequences of not doing so or the cycle will never be broken. I've intervened and it's painful and can cause horrendous relationship rifts. I would do it again and again if I thought it would make a difference for the better.

I believe it does.

I have hope it can so that my Beatrice can grow up strong and safe in the knowledge that most people are good with healthy relationships. We can get there. As Kim wrote, we are all very, very precious - and I know my baby is.

Everyday should be domestic violence awareness day. We've got to help those in abusive relationships model healthy family relationships regardless if they're straight or gay, men or women, children or adults, or whatever they're religious and cultural backgrounds are. In the societal context of today, we do not and cannot accept the norm.

In fact, it's more than literal physical abuse. It's those in relationships who abuse drugs and alcohol, who have mental illness, who verbally abuse - anything destructive to self, family and community.

We've got to increase the production of purple elevate patches pronto.

I pledge to raise awareness and intervene when necessary. That's what I'm pledging on my birthday today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I swear this isn't an anthropomorphized Coco-the-ape scenario

In the span of almost one week - from my 25-year high school reunion (which I have yet to blog about) to my whirlwind few days at the HR Technology Conference and Expo - my baby's talking more, can sign, loves her books, was on the international olympic committee (she was pulling for Chi-town), and she now understands quantum physics.

Okay, maybe not the IOC and physics parts, but it's pretty damn amazing to bear witness to bright learning spikes of one-year-olds.

She's a brainiac with the daddy cranium, that's for sure, but with much more brain than the bone and stale air crisps that I slog atop my neck.

When I got back yesterday from my trip, I sat and read through her books with her, especially the Let's Sign book, watching her sign baby, and book, and hug, and a few more. She even signed daddy this morning.

I swear this isn't an anthropomorphized Coco-the-ape scenario (no, Bea isn't an ape - think figuratively). She's really doing it and it's very crazy learning cool.

How soon is too soon for the baby MacBook?