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, March 29, 2015

Heads Held High Above Our Failed Fray

“Then I looked up. And I said, ‘Oh, MAN!’ 
And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began.” 
—Dr. Seuss

Nope, you can't have it all. Not even the daddies. You just can't co-host an Internet radio show and help coach your daughter's little league T-ball game at the same time.

Maybe reading Wacky Wednesday on Tuesday night is what started it all. It wasn’t my worst mistake ever, but it still bothered me – just poor decision-making than anything else based on limited data, guesswork and of course wishful thinking.

Listening to the Reply All podcast episode The Time Traveler and the Hitman on that Thursday morning while I worked out didn’t help me much either. The episode told the story of John Silveira who in 1997 placed a joke classified ad in a tiny publication called Backwoods Home Magazine asking if anyone wanted to travel back in time with him. Surprisingly a lot of people took him seriously wanting him to fix the worst mistakes they’d ever made.

Again, it wasn’t my worst mistake, and I probably wouldn’t have written John Silveira asking for his help, much less even finding his ad in print or online where it eventually ended up. But it got me thinking about the “what if” of going back to undo the poor decision-making process. What if I could?

When you’re co-hosting a live Internet radio show, it’s best to launch it in a quiet, secure environment, one where the Internet connection is sound. Where my guesswork and wishful thinking went wrong was when I decided I could practically do anything from anywhere with my Wi-Fi hotspot and any device.

In this case, launch our show from the near the field where my oldest daughter plays little league T-ball, and where I’m one of the assistant coaches for her team. Unfortunately my Wi-Fi hotspot wasn’t strong enough and I a few minutes before the show started I frantically texted my friend and co-host, Meghan M. Biro, to launch the show.

We pulled that off, but then one our guests had a poor dial-in connection that sounded like we had cement mixers on the show. After he disconnected and dialed back in, we finished strong and then moved on to our Twitter chat portion. But I was already late to the game and caught half-focused online and real-time on the field.

I rolled with it all and adapted as quickly as I could, though, keeping my composure and delivering upbeat no matter what. There’s no other choice for those of us who are aware enough of our own limitations and strengths and where our emotional intelligence affects how we make decisions, mistakes, adjust and ultimately achieve positive results. This of course all validated by analyzing high EQ data on over a million people according to a recent LinkedIn article by Dr. Travis Bradberry.

Sure, time travel could have saved one of two things I had control over, but not both. We can’t have it all no matter how much we think we can – a common myth we perpetuate no matter what the painful reality tells us. I'm sure you all have many more train wreck examples of what goes wrong when you try to have it all.

Longing for time travel doesn't change what happened; it only saps us of the mindful presence needed to keep ourselves moving along, heads held high above our failed fray.

But then again, there was that one time in 1989...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Always Be the Titter to Our Totter

SPOILER ALERT: I'm giving away the Big Hero 6 climax, so read on at your own risk...

The part where Baymax sacrifices himself to save Hiro and the daughter of the misguided bad guy. That's the part that hit her so hard and fast that every fiber of her little being ached with sadness and burned with free-flowing tears.

So much so we had to stop the Big Hero 6 movie for a bit. Bryce cried and cried, struggling to breathe and regain the composure she had prior to that point. Over 15 minutes later we finally resumed and finished the movie.

Yes, we know it was a PG-rated movie and there was violence and death and dark action and loss and sadness and why in God's name were we letting our four-year-old watch this thing. But we've been melting our children's brains since we inadvertently let them watch The Incredibles two years ago thinking it was G, when it was actually PG, so there's that proud parenting milestone.

But hey, they're both Disney movies with heart-felt familial themes and the girls had been really wanting to see Big Hero 6, so we did, and they loved it.

When Bryce cried you could see the loss on in her wet, bleary red eyes and puffy ashen face. It was palatable, visceral and it glowed with the degenerative density of a white hot dwarf star. Her life experience may be very little to date, but mercy me does life move this little fireball. The Mama held her close and both Beatrice and me consoled her as well.

After the movie Bryce wanted us to make a Baymax for her to play with, but not the real one. She was very clear about it not being real, her emotional response still raw loss. I made one, although I'm not sure if it ended up more like a ghostly E.T. than a short-armed Baymax.

Anyway, Bryce is like me this way, the intense deep feeler who's up and down and up and down and all heart smeared all over her sleeves and every other inch of her, light years from impulse control. Even when I finally overcame the impulse drive, I still cry at almost anything laced with sentimentality, loss and redeeming hope. The Mama loves that about her man for those of you keeping score at home.

And conversely like me (something the Mama doesn't care for), Bryce can be a Daddy Goat Gruff when she's "all done" with whatever she's doing and not afraid to let you know that. The bark without a bite doesn't make it right, but dammit, when we're all done we're all done.

Up and down and up and down -- cry, snap, sniff.

Ah, my baby girl feeler -- unlike her sister and mother, both of whom respond with uncomfortable (but heartfelt) inappropriate tittering laughter when faced with sadness and tragedy. We love them, but c'mon. It's just weird.

Anyway, I hope in 40 years Bryce will feel just as deeply as she does today, that she'll cry at the sticky sweet and the sad -- and that Beatrice and the Mama will always be the titter to our totter.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

That Lift of Heart and Soul

(Bea and Me)

The part where Amanda Whurlizer strikes out the boys. #GirlPower

That's the Tatum O'Neal character from the very funny and uncomfortably dark 1976 classic The Bad News Bears. Video shorts of Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) and team, and my own fond memories of playing baseball, kept playing in my head during Little League opening day here in Santa Cruz.

A few weeks ago Beatrice started talking about her kindergarten classmates playing T-ball (which she actually thought was soccer at first, but who's keeping score, right?) and she really wanted to play. The Mama and I never want to push Beatrice or Bryce into any sport or activity that they don't want to try. Even then, we'll do our best to temper our competitive enthusiasm if either one gets really good at whatever they're involved in.

Strike that -- I'll do my best to temper my competitive enthusiasm. It has nothing to do of overcompensating for not having a boy, because I have two very capable girls who will be empowered to try and embrace whatever they want, no matter their prowess. Just like when Beatrice took martial arts last year, something that really helped boost her confidence and coordination.

But I am more of the competitive one in the family, and I do like winning. And although I don't ever plan on being one of those disruptive parents on the field, I do plan on encouraging and cheering on my girls "enthusiastically."

Opening day for Beatrice and her T-ball teammates was an unusually hot Spring day and thankfully we (the parents) had plenty of water on hand. I had dressed Bea before we left, and while she might have looked a little disheveled, she had the glow of a star ball player. The other dads said they loved how I pulled her red socks up like the old stirrup socks of old. (However, the Mama thankfully straightened her up before her team pictures.)

On the way to opening day we stopped to buy her first glove and she immediately picked a sweet little red one, to match her uniform of course. Mercy me gloves are expensive. Wait, the whole friggin' sports thing is expensive, but again, who's keeping score, right? Sigh. It's only just begun.

They didn't actually play a game on opening day, but they did run through skills training with the older kids in Little League: catching, throwing, fielding grounders, running the bases and hitting the ball off the tee.

By the way, Beatrice is the only girl on the team and the biggest kid by far. She continues to amaze me. Watching her play and really trying to learn the fundamentals while having fun lifted my heart and soul with so much love and pride. Granted, we really haven't played the game much with her, if at all, but she hung tough and worked hard on each and every skill. And when it came time to hit that ball -- whack! -- she hit that ball like a boss.

And that's what we want Beatrice to experience no matter what sports or activities she plays: win or lose, that lift of heart and soul.

But assistant coach Kevin will always take more win. Amen. #PlayBall #GirlPower

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Why the Betta Splendens Is Splendid

And there it is. Their first pet. A Siamese fighting fish. Which is more commonly known as the betta (Betta splendens).

Which is actually quite an invasive species and an aggressive one at that. Invasive and aggressive like our little Bryce, the tipping point in this first pet equation. For nearly the past year, both girls have been pitching for a real live pet, but Bryce has doubled-down on the request (with Beatrice backing her), and got the Mama to cave negotiate a pet start date when Bryce turned five later this year.

That's when the Mama started researching various low-maintenance pets (dogs and cats being years away), ones that could be kept in the house and that the girls maybe could help take care of. I say maybe because, at 4 and 6, it's not really an inherent priority to take care of another living thing behind day one so it stays alive. So the hamsters and guinea pigs sounded like a good idea until they didn't. (And daddy couldn't even get the Sea-Monkey experiment to last more than a day.)

But can they care for pretend things? Absolutely. The girls are really good at that. And we've got a billion stuffed animals, baby dolls, and little figurine collections that both girls have practiced on. But again, that's not really taking care of a live animal, only make-believe playing and sometimes pretending to care for and mend the owies and the boo-boos.

And then throwing them at each other or across the room. And then smothering them under blankets and pillows. And then dunking them in the water during bath time. And then...

For those of you who grew up on farms and dairies, and whose kids are now growing up on farms and dairies, I'm sure you and they learned early on how to take care of animals of all shapes, sizes and utilities.

But for the rest of us, it's a lot of work to care for pets -- in addition to the children. I'm sure that pets bring joy and obviously learning moments for the kids, but again, a lot of work for the adults in the room.

Bryce was relentless, so last year we got her one of those cheap robot dogs (the ones with the remote control cord attached) to play with, which she loved. And for Christmas last year we got her the annoying mechanical birdie that sings and records the girls' own voiceovers (the favorite extremes being either "I love you" or "you are poop and pee").

At some point between Christmas and now the pet start date got moved up with secret negotiations escalating without my knowledge (or the fact that I just blocked it out). Suddenly there was a small aquarium set up and a pretty fish swimming in it.

Betta splendens -- I kinda like that. And it's splendid that we don't have to pick poop up in the yard or from a cage for now.

And you can read to them. Who knew?

His name you ask? Well, it's Jumpy Tree Summer. Lovely, isn't it?