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, December 30, 2012

We hold our protest signs on high

Gun control may or may not be one of the answers in the U.S. to curb violence and violent deaths, but globally, impulse control certainly is.

In fact, a big misconception is that we're so much more violent today than our ancestors were yesterday. Media exploitation aside, the data actually shows rates of violence and violent death have declined over the past few thousand years, and our ability to empathize, curb our violent impulses and value human life has never been higher. Steven Pinker does an amazing job of explaining this all in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The rates of violence today really are lower than they've ever been.

Even those experts who don't necessarily agree with all the violence-declining theories Pinker postulates in his book do agree that statistically speaking we've gotten less violent as a species, not more violent. And the increase of impulse control and how we value human life is a big part of that.

Until it's not and control is again lost in horrific examples where we regress quite rapidly, the latest in the news makes it seem like there's a crazy on every corner ready to kill us and our children.

But it was the news I saw posted from my friends at The Pixel Project about the gang-rape in New Delhi of a 23-year-old medical student, and her eventual death from her injuries, that really stopped me cold. Of course I immediately thought of my own two young daughters and the fact that they could be 23-year-old medical students someday and that even with the overall decline in violence, violence against women is still a worldwide scourge.

Many women's rights advocates say that rapes, sex crimes and violent deaths go unreported in many parts of the world, even in the U.S. And for those reported, nearly 1.3 million women and about 835,000 men are assaulted by their partner every year in the United States.

We're not talking random rape here like in the recent India example. According to a National Women’s Study that sampled a total of 4,008 women, 13 percent of all adult women become rape victims during their lifetime. About 9 percent of the female victims were raped by their husbands or ex-husbands, nearly 10 percent were raped by their boyfriends or ex-boyfriends. Additionally, 11 percent of the female victims were raped by their fathers or stepfathers, and 16 percent were raped by other relatives.

The outrage in India has sparked protests and a cry for justice, but it also needs to be a cry for self-control and an even greater value of human life, for those we know and those we don't.

The picture of protesting Indian schoolchildren holding up declarative signs moves me to write yet again about putting an end to violence against women and intimate partner violence for both women and men, to renew my investment in 2013 in generating empathy, increasing impulse control from the day we're born, and elevating a little higher, however incremental, our value of one another, our children and our children's children.

Do Not Touch Me, My Dress Is Not A Yes

Indeed it is not. The Mama and I and our girls concur and we hold our signs on high.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

All in on Christmas, a winner every time

"But you don't have to be an angel
To sing harmony.
You don't have to be a child
To love the mystery.
And you don't have to be a wise man
On bended knee.
The heart of this Christmas is in you and me." --Amy Grant

She's insanely excited about the numbers. The next day's number to be precise, once she empties the pocket of today's of course, full of two Hershey's kisses and a tiny ornament and/or another tiny holiday knick-knack like Santa and reindeer erasers the Mama and Nonna picked up at the dollar store.

It's the first thing Bea does when she wakes up and comes downstairs: she bounds immediately over the Advent calendar than Nana made for us a few years ago (my mom), announces the date and thrusts her hand into its pocket to loot its bounty.

Right after that: "Mommy, I want to look at 23." 

"That's not until tomorrow, Sweetie. You'll have to wait."


And then Bea brings a chocolate kiss over to Bryce.

"Here you go, Bryce."

Bryce nods and says, "Yum, yum."

And then I ask, "How many days left until Christmas, Beatrice?"

Bea runs back over to the calendar and starts counting.

"One, two, three..."

And then Bryce calls out, "Beatrice! More choc-lat!"

They're both all in on every number. It's brilliant to watch. When you're 2+ and 4+, you don't know how else to be; all in on one number at a time is the preferred Christmas toddler roulette gamble. Spin, baby, spin. A winner every time.

Although, there's always tomorrow, right?

"Mommy, I want to look at 23." 

Last weekend we took the girls to see Santa and they were both thrilled to bits. They sat happily on his lap and Beatrice told him what she wanted while Bryce babbled away in kind. They got yummy candy canes and when we left and walked past a store window with a classic holiday train running along a track around a tree, they stood mesmerized in front of the window and our hearts filled with childlike joy watching them.


Back to this weekend. "Beatrice, what did you tell Santa you wanted?"

"A castle," she says proudly, and then, "Daddy, I want to look at 23."

"Tomorrow, my sweet Bea. Tomorrow." 

And then she's off to count the remaining days...

I remember writing a silly poem in my late teens about my anticipatory glee of Christmas each year, and how I knew when I was 102, I'd still be thrilled to bits on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

And that's never been more true now that we have children. In fact, I can't even imagine not having children excited for Christmas (and nearly every day), even though at one time weren't going to have any (and no, we don't disparage those who don't).

Maybe that's why I knew I'd be thrilled to bits at Christmas at 102, to continually live life through the "all in" gamblers, and so my heart aches for the families who lost their children tragically this month in Newton, CT, and our prayers for healing go out to the entire community.

May their anticipatory glee keep the universe lit forever.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Heaven's Addendum

Their heaven wraps around the finger lake at sunrise
like a gold band forged now and forever.
I walk and cry and laugh and run along the paths,
Draw beauty of sky, trees, debris and water
deep into my lungs' tendrils that feed my heart.
I stop to pay homage to Kinkade and Sparks,
tempered (of course) by Hopper, Folds and Peart,
Bly and Kerouac, and Stein and Thompson Walker of late.
I thank God for my parents, for their love and suffering
when their bodies finally slowed to sudden stops
only four months and a day apart after a millennium.
Heartache leaves permanent scars of pleasure and pain,
but I thank God for my parents and their heaven,
for it will be there for me every morning I rise
promising more than until death do us part,
an eternal promise for my wife and us all.

Now and forever

We told Bea about heaven. In the simplest of definitions, with loving language and expository words used sparingly if at all.

The Mama had finally made it home from Oregon, but I was still here with my sister taking care of what had to be cared for. There I was, watching my family on FaceTime in front of our fireplace adorned with stockings and lit Christmas moon lights.

"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down..."

Bryce babbled and ran back and forth across the camera's field of vision, calling for Nonna, and Nonna answered back softly. Beatrice stood in front of the couch while the Mama kneeled next to her. Bea held the little figurine of two mice that she fell in love with when we were up visiting my parents in June, Nana and Papa as all the grandkids knew them.

"Beatrice," the Mama said, "we want to tell you that Nana isn't sick anymore, that she's with Papa in a better place."

"Yes," I said.

The Mama continued. "Nana and Papa are now together in heaven where they will be forever."

"Nana and Papa are together," Bea echoed. "In heaven."

"Yes, sweetie. They love you very much and will always be with you."

As I said those words, I ached to believe them, as if my very presence in that moment depended on everything I learned as a child in the Nazarene Church -- the many pictures of smiling Christs, arms always draped lovingly around children of all colors and nations, set in a meadows on warm spring days.

"They will always be with you, Bea."

I watched as Bea's mind swirled and ticked, trying to understand what it all meant. She held the mouse figurine tightly and smiled. I took that as my answer.

For two people who've always questioned the edicts and redeeming value of conservative Christianity, the Mama and me were quite comfortable telling Bea about the coloring book version of heaven.

Because we believe we'll be together someday in a better place. Because we already are -- the Mama, me, the B-hive and our family and friends.

Heaven is being with those you love. To hell with everything else. Heaven is now; heaven is forever.

We love you, Mom and Dad. Now and forever. Merry Christmas.