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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Big Heart Love to My Class of 1984

The arsonist had returned. I would've been caught by complete surprise if it hadn't been for the smoke of memories; the recurrent waking nightmare of being trapped in a burning room of invisible flame.

The nightmares, barely minutes in duration, are thankfully few and far between in these middle years, but the arsonist knows how to create the right Molotov cocktail when I'm feeling unwell. This flammable concoction includes one ounce exhaustion, one ounce under the weather, and one ounce low-level nervousness. In the right environment at the wrong time, this three-fingered shot spontaneously combusts and the air around me catches fire.

My wife Amy saw the smoke as well, noticed the discomfort on my perspiring face, my eyes dancing and ready to bolt, the tendrils of translucent flame curling around my head. Without missing a beat, she went to the nearest table and poured me a glass of ice water, returning swiftly with a sunny smile on her face.

I kept talking to my reunion classmates as if nothing were wrong, this from years of learning how to keep the arsonist in its place. Although my conversations sounded as if they were coming from an rotary phone in the next smoke-free room, I hung in there. The ice water quelled the heat, the smoke cleared, and the arsonist was vanquished yet again.

One little victory in a span of minutes 30 years on, while for some of us, phantom villains keep tracking us over time no matter what we do to lose them. Phantom villains such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression, all of which come in differing forms and personas.

Mine is an arsonist, one that first reared its vile head in high school, a panic attack fire-starter. Decades later I keep the arsonist at bay, although once and awhile it burns me down, albeit briefly. This is why every Mt. Whitney High School reunion, including the most recent 30-year reunion, is such a special event for me.

My classmates cared. About each other and everything that affected us, especially our friend Robby who broke his neck at a swim meet our senior year. Whether or not we were close then (or now), whatever cliques we hung out in, whatever flippant drama many of us certainly did participate in -- we still all cared. A class nearly 500 in size, we crossed The Breakfast Club picket lines again and again, a subset of us eventually rekindling our friendships on Facebook.

At this year's reunion, the number of those no longer with us grew, a painful reminder of our limited time in this world, and why we need to embrace the happy more often than not.

To hell with phantom villains, because there are moments that alter all our worlds dramatically, that forever bind us together, our lives and futures inextricably linked in a lifetime of friendship -- through all the personal tragedy, incremental joy, marriage, children, divorce, career success and failure, falling outs and ins, illness, injury (a recent bum knee for me), addiction, anxiety, depression, and even death -- always laced with happy silver linings and much needed laughter.

I hope to convey to my girls how important it is to overpower their villains and surround themselves with people like this who care, share and laugh, who want nothing more than to be better and shine their lights, and that maybe a little of that light will shoo the darkness away, whether they only see them in real life every 5-10 years, if at all, or only online.

We are all now men and women of an unremarkable age, seasoned old friends with big hearts that are always happy to see each other -- and just friggin' glad to be here, now.

Big heart love to my class of 1984. Thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Family Fun Rehabbing

After reviewing my MRI before my knee surgery, the surgeon told me, "Sure, you'll be able to run again."

But then, a week and change after my knee surgery, the surgeon told me, " Not recommended."

Sigh. What a frickin' bummer. After years of getting in and staying in decent "old daddy" shape, especially after officially (and finally) quitting smoking back in 2002, becoming a cross-training and running hobbyist, I blew out my right knee just a few months ago.

My running had really improved for me too, finally reaching 8.5-minute miles the week before the meniscal tear slowed me to a crawl. Running was one of the only times I could disappear into the music melting my brain into heart and soul reflective mush...

Plus, being able to rough house and chase Bea and Bryce was always a top priority. I had to stay in shape for that alone.

Sigh. What a frickin' bummer, though. But it doesn't mean the B-chasing and staying in shape are over for this old daddy. No, far from it, but I'll certainly miss the running. Thankfully the Mama is a physical therapist and has been working on me since well before the surgery. That combined with staying in decent shape has given me the competitive advantage of rehabbing more effectively and a broken-down super hero rising fastidiously to light the darkness and save himself and his family from a depressing, sedentary life.

Okay, maybe not super hero, but work with me here. It's a metaphor for fighting back and staying healthy.

It's only been two weeks and I'm already back to walking and a light workouts, pushing that right knee with the PT exercises. Plus, we took the girls to our county fair for the first time, and I survived all the walking around and even carrying Bryce all the way back to our car when we left.

From the kiddie rides to corn dogs, pig races, chickens, cows and more, nothing heals better than staying active with family fun rehabbing.

Oh, and baby pigs. Lots and lots of baby pigs.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Because Saturday Morning

Remember Saturday morning?

Your favorite cartoons, your favorite snuggle spots, and your favorite children matching you frame for frame.

Although I'm writing this, and they're not. Instead they're engaged in a different kind of imaginative play, which is great for their executive functions, the management of their highly cognitive processes that includes working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution. And all the while the TV rolls on.

Maybe your kids don't watch much TV, or any, like ours do every day. That's great. I don't care. Really. Don't judge.

Okay, they do watch a show called Zig and Sharko that is eerily similar to the old Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner Warner Cartoons. And they watch Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse sometimes. Ack. But then they also watch Martha Speaks, Cat in the Hat, Peg + Cat, Arthur and Wild Kratts, all of which are quality PBS educational shows.

The Mama and I grew up on TV and we turned out okay without violent tendencies or melted goo for brains. Sure I've seen the research, but we read to them lots, and they read lots, and we play with them lots, and they play with each other lots, and we all go outside for lots of experiential and physical fun and adventure, including Beatrice going to martial arts (which she loves still). I promise.

Back to Saturday morning. For some of us, Saturday mornings were (and are still) as sacred as reverent self-serving spirituality, a soft space of forgiving nirvana where our minds can meld with animated escapism and storytelling bliss, all without judgment, sometimes learning, sometimes not.

I remember as it it

And Saturday morning today for us, where old is new again, is where we can now pick and choose what the girls see (and they can and do too) because of our controlling the programming universe with magical devices and broadband portals. In addition to the above examples, there are also Schoolhouse Rock, The Magic School Bus, The Muppets and more. Plus, most of the Disney classics.

But now are the days of synchronized school girls, with Bea in kindergarten everyday and Bryce back in preschool three days per week. This school-bound book-learnin' week-to-week speed of light journey has only just begun, and for the girls (and us, because work doesn't disappear), we'll forever hold on to the weekend mornings as a critical free-range entertainment time.

Because Saturday morning. Sigh.