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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The "thankful" box tradition (My family is my why)

Last Thanksgiving another daddy blogger I read, Mocha Dad, talked about his family's "thankful" box tradition.

Throughout the year he and his wife and kids write notes about something they're thankful about and put it in the box. Then at Thanksgiving, they read them to one another.

Such a lovely tradition that Mama and I decided to co-opt for our family as well. We picked out a box, cut out a bunch of images and words that had special meaning for us and covered the box with them.

Of course, our girls are too little to start writing their own thankful notes yet, but in the next few years Beatrice will followed by her little sister Bryce.

We've started reading them earlier this week and it's like listening to favorite songs that represent contextual moments of time.

It reminds us of why we live and love as family. Even under everyday fun and duress, like this week's things I'm thankful for:

  • Sharing family colds, snot and tissue gardens.
  • Family "workout" walks along the water (pushing the girls in the double stroller, otherwise knows as the "Lil' Limo".
  • Ant traps and Windex that kill the rain-driven, food-crazed ants.
  • Children's Tylenol that is stickier than maple syrup or tar. And gets everywhere. Except inside the child's mouth.
  • Swinging crying babies to sleep like sweaty irregular pendulums of doom.
  • Getting one girl to sleep while the other one won't.
  • The hi-fidelity sound of dueling girl cry-shrieks. Infinitum.
  • Watching Elmo's World. Infinitum.
  • Developing the career/business rebound after a disappointing 4th quarter.
  • Promising ourselves that this year everybody gets at least a wing and a prayer for Christmas. And a family Christmas photo card.
  • Our wonderful babysitter who allows us to get out for pre-Turkday Day beer, nachos and Harry Potter.
  • Dear friends who are having us over for Thanksgiving today. We're bringing ham and pies and little girlie cries.

In fact, what I've come to find out is that no matter what we've written and added to the box throughout the year (or experienced this short holiday week), it's the why of giving thanks, rather than the act itself, that emboldens our hearts and minds to love and grow.

My family is my why.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Watch Telling Amy's Story. Then talk about it. A lot.

"You're a writer? Wow. I've always wanted to tell my story."

"You should tell tell it," I said. "Everyone needs to hear the stories of domestic violence to help generate more awareness and encourage prevention."

She nodded. "You're right. They do."

That's part of a conversation I had with a woman who works for the Walnut Avenue Women's Center where I've started volunteering. We were picking up donated supplies for families in need.

I'm shared my family's story more than once and will keep sharing it. When I told the woman from the center a little about it, she said:

"We definitely need more positive male role models like you."

I smiled. "That's only because I had so many bad ones growing up, but I do the best I can. Once we had our first daughter, that was all she wrote."

But even after all that I've experienced and all that I've researched and know, nothing prepared me for the documentary Telling Amy's Story.

I've read about it, watched the trailers, talked about it with other domestic violence awareness champions -- but I hadn't seen it until today. I finally ordered the DVD that arrived this week (you can also check your local PBS channels for possible airings).

The trailer is below; I may have shared it on this blog before. Whether you've had to deal with domestic violence in your life or not, everyone should watch this movie.

Then talk about it. A lot.

Domestic violence is a serious problem that impacts people at home, in the workplace, and in the community. One of the first steps to end it is to talk about it.

Check out these stats:

  • According to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1/4 of all women in the U.S. report that they have experienced domestic violence.
  • On average, more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day.
  • Nearly 7.8 million women have been raped by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 3 women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused.
  • 1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Abused girls are significantly more likely to get involved in other risky behaviors. They are 4 to 6 times more likely to get pregnant and 8 to 9 times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-abused peers.
  • 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked, or otherwise physically hurt by his/her partner.

It's also not just about helping the victims post-violence, it's also about understanding why abusers abuse and how to prevent it.

Based on the latest research around emotional intelligence, and the fact that abusers have collectively lower EI than non-abusive folk, that's a place to start -- to ensure empathic awareness is more developed.

Especially when they're children and teenagers (something else I'm going to get more involved with in 2011).

There are tons of great resources on the Telling Amy's Story website that you can download today.

But do see the movie and talk about it.

"Just save one life...just one."

--Deidri Fishel, the detective who investigated Amy's case and narrates the story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Situational gravity and the happy family bed of monkeys

One of Beatrice's favorite songs is "10 little monkeys". She always loves when I sing this part is a low booming voice:

"No more monkeys jumpin' on the bed!"

Sometimes life doesn't happen as planned and we fall off the bed.

And it hurts.

It doesn't matter what did or didn't happen, it just happens regardless, for good or ill, and you've got to adapt.

But the happy family bed? That defies situational gravity.

Last night Mama held a smiling and gurgling Bryce above her while Bea giggled and bounced on the bed and then jumped on me.

The slowing of time and increased weightlessness fuels levity and love like colliding atoms birthing happiness over and over again -- thousands of times in a matter of minutes.

Soon we were all laughing as our bodies hovered above the bed's surface.

You sure as hell can't beat that.

Playing on the happy family bed of monkeys makes it all better.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Why I prefer my monsters be Cookie Monsters

Although there have been two attempted sexual assaults on young women in two days, Santa Cruz police statistics indicate a falling trend in such incidents in the past 12 months.

That from a Santa Cruz Sentinel article this week.

Two attempts too many when you're a Mama and Daddy with two little girls at home. Unfortunately, the stats of broader violence against women are still staggering worldwide.

It scares me to death that too many of my gender are still so susceptible to such irrational violence (yes, there are women who fall into this category as well). Evolution and the hand of God haven't changed things much.

However, violent behavior isn't rational. It's either full of uncontrollable emotion or void of any emotion. Emotion is the variable in the equation, trapped in a subconscious cage with tiny impulsive monsters that inconsistently ignore and poke and prod.

Even with the advances in neuroscience and the science behind emotional intelligence and the fact that emotions play a big role in behavior, we still put up more of a fight against faceless villains like cancer. As we should be. I've had friends and family die from cancer and I'm sure many of you had as well.

But violence is a cancer too, and the fact is we can help prevent it and save a life. It all starts with us. It all starts with our two little girls, just as it all starts with you and yours, regardless of status or economic strata.

At some point the monsters may push emotion out of someone's cage and over the edge. Let's ensure there are enough safety lines already in place to pull us back up.

Which is why I prefer my monsters be Cookie Monsters. They satiate the pleasure center and no one gets hurt.

Except the belly.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do you see me? Do you hear me?

The crazy man walked past us, waving at the sky.

He called out, "Do you see me? Do you hear me?"

The sky didn't respond.

And neither did we. I just pushed Bea along in the stroller. She wasn't paying attention anyway, as she basked in the glow from our Natural Bridges trek where Monarchs fluttered overhead like hopeful waking dreams.

But it was the look he gave me in the split-second he passed us, as if saying, "I'm scared."

I wasn't worried about him, though. He seemed stuck in a perpetual loop of his own unfortunate fall from sanity and grace.

An empathic twinge slowed me, but I didn't stop.

He kept walking towards the sun and we kept heading home.

We crossed the street. Bea pointed to the sky and cried, "Plane!" I looked back at the crazy man and then up at the sky.

A thin white line of jet exhaust creased the otherwise flawless blue. I closed my eyes.

Do you see me? Do you hear me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Yes, a fairy princess or Piglet even.

Halloween isn't just for ghouls and goblins.

Or zombies. Ack. I hate zombies.

No, Halloween is also about becoming something you're not. It's about suspending your disbelief for one day and pretending that you could really be a rock and roll star, a movie star, a sports star, a politician (God help you), a superhero, a fairy princess or Piglet even.

Yes, a fairy princess or Piglet even. (Forget it -- no zombies. Really. I'm not going to tell you again.)

Pretend change is easy. Real change for a real live adult? That can be painful, although there is immediate relief in the believing.

And believing in my fairy princess and my Piglet give me immediate relief.

Even if Piglet can't do much yet. And the fairy princess just dances around.

(la-la-la-la...)

(Um...a little help Daddy...)