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, October 24, 2015

The Heck of Awesome

Adjective or Noun.
  1. An expression recently used by the B-hive that interjectionally expresses glee about something very cool.
  2. Akin to "right on," an 1970's expression Daddy reprised years ago when he's digging cool stuff.
  3. An exclamation of encouragement, support, or enthusiastic agreement.
When Bryce spoke the magical words, we laughed. Later, the Mama and I asked each other, "Where did she get that?"

And then I thought, That's catch-phrase gold. I even did a Google search on it -- nothing came up that matched it.

We'd been reading bedtime stories with the girls and they both got really excited about putting play glasses on a dog named Arlo (from the book Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Salzburg). 

First, Beatrice pointed to the dog visiting the eye doctor and said, "What the heck?"

Then, Bryce pointed to the page full of play glasses to try on and said, "It's the heck of awesome!"

The heck of awesome. Right on. That's exactly how I felt after she said it; exactly how I try to feel nearly everyday with #BhivePower. No matter the stresses of the day, no matter how Daddy Goat Gruff grumpy I may get, no matter what's happened in my life, or what may happen -- there's always the heck of awesome

Always.

The Mama and I are all about becoming the awesomer part of ourselves -- two scrappy halves that make up two wholes -- now proud parents proudly displaying all the figurative scars of earned failures and wins it took to get here (and still takes as a work in progress).

We've been together 18 wonderful years, but now that I've hit the half-century mark, that proverbial ceiling of time encroaches on me quickly as if I'm an aged Alice filling a house after drinking the wrong potion. Except I won't get small again no matter what I do, so I either learn to live in every nook and cranny as responsibly and comfortably as possible with my arms and legs hanging out the windows and the doors for as long as I can, or I don't. Of course we prefer the former and work hard on instilling that in the girls for their eventual house filling long run as well.

I'm blessed and I'm grateful. And while I've always joked about drowning in a sea of estrogen, the real truth is it makes me a better man and father. That's why it's all the sweeter when my girls afford me the occasional catch phrase and a daddy manhood rite of passage.

When the Mama and I were married, one of our wedding gifts was a George Foreman electric grill barbecue. I know, I know. For those of you keeping score at home, it's not really a barbecue when you plug it in to an electric outlet. However, we did use it over the years, and it certainly came in handy when the Mama was pregnant with Bryce and would've ripped my arms from their sockets if I would've cooked bacon or any kind of meat in the house.

My dad was a master barbecuer back in the day, but the golden grill spatula was never bestowed on me, and in recent years the Foreman grill usage has definitely dropped off.

That all changed on my birthday when the girls bought me a whole lotta awesome in a super-duper propane barbecue. It only took 50 years, but now my daddy manhood is complete. Somewhere in heaven my dad just shed a tear.

Amen.

Thank you for always being the heck of awesome, Girls. Right on. 



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why We Say Let's Let the Pearls Play

Her question caused me angst. Not a lot of it, because I already knew my answer three days before I told her. It was the same answer the Mama gave as well. But I still found myself a little torn as to how to respond.

The question was this: "Daddy, the birthday party I was invited to is the same time as our soccer game on Saturday. Can I go to the birthday party instead?"

The very first thing I thought was this: Well, no. You need to go to your soccer game.

I didn't say it, but I thought it. More than twice because of a wrinkle. I mean, my reactive response came from a place of instilling commitment and teamwork in Beatrice, of teaching her that she could be letting the team down by not showing up to play. A place that I was reminded of more than a few times in my own childhood.

I was older, in 4th grade, and was pushed by my crazy step-father to play basketball (not the man I ended up calling Pop), a sport that I wasn't very good at compared to baseball and football. In fact, I wasn't even very good at playing HORSE, the creative shooting challenge game played with a basketball for people who can, well, shoot baskets and actually make them.

However, he used to be good at playing basketball, and so I was pushed everyday after school to practice on the driveway basketball hoop -- free-throws, layups, hooks, jump shots -- you name it, I was pushed to practice it. It didn't really make me any better and I hated every minute of it (for more reasons than just the game itself).

My basketball swan song came at the end of the season when as a "not really a power" forward I scored five points -- two baskets, one of which was an alley-oop blindly from behind, and one free-throw. 

That was it. Baseball, football and even soccer in junior high ended up being so much more fulfilling.

Now, I/we didn't push Beatrice to play anything. We have always been about letting our girls decide if they want to trying something, and of course encouraging them to try things, and then if they want to keep doing any of those things, we'll be there for all of it (Bryce loves swimming and dancing).

Bea actually wanted to play soccer, with the boys at first, just like when she played T-ball, and then conceded to be on an all-girls team in U8 soccer. Beatrice is definitely better than me in soccer than I was in basketball and she really gives everything a go that she tries. Let's just say she's got a lot of heart, loves her teammates and friend, and loves playing hard and having fun. 

And then there's the part where I'm the team's coach. Yes, that part. That's the wrinkle. So when she asked to go to the birthday party instead of our soccer game, I was a little torn to say the least. But like I said, I already knew my answer, and when I talked with the Mama about it and our response was united: instilling commitment and teamwork in both Beatrice and Bryce has already started and will be years in the making, like the pearls all our children will hopefully become.

She may never want to play sports long-term; maybe she'll be an engineer; or maybe she'll do both. Who knows. Both girls'  lives will be difficult and competitive enough as it is as they get older -- especially being females. Plus, I'm dealing with an age group who loves to chase each other, do cart wheels on the field during games, pick clumps of grass and throw them at each other, and give each other hugs. So there's that.

Either way Bea's in first grade and only seven years old and has come a long way, baby. That's why we say let's let the pearls play.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Celebrate the Wham-Bams and All in Between

"Time is passing by
I still want you
Crime is on the rise
I still want you
Climate change and debt
I still want you
Nuclear distress
I still want you
The Earth is heating up
I still want you
Hurricanes and floods
I still want you
Even more than I did before..."

—Brandon Flowers, Still Want You


And just like that, it's 18 years later. This is the part when you measure the magical moments against the realities of your life and a long-term relationship. From that moment of meeting the Mama one day at the beach...

...October 11, 1997. I usually get the words wrong, but our lover lore recounts the fact that the Mama walked up to me and asked:

"So, do you always come here alone?"

And like a fool, I almost didn't answer her; I wanted to be alone actually.

But then, "Yes, I do. And you?"

Within a few weeks we were hopelessly in love...

....to now 18 years later celebrating my 50th birthday party with friends and family on the eve of our 18th anniversary of meeting one another and our 12th anniversary of marriage. In fact, we had the local iconic Surfing Magician perform for the kids and the adults at my party, but dammit, he couldn't make me 40 again. Sigh.

But he did combine two signed playing cards from me and the Mama into one. Right on. My sweet Mama Ace in the hole.

Nearly two decades, two children, a finally refinanced mortgage, a few careers and economic ebbs and flows, and multiple family dramas later -- here we are.

None of this makes our relationship any less romantic, however. Real life may not be as colorfully dramatic and sexy as a novel or a movie, although throughout the years have been peppered with manmade and natural disasters and illness and death and -- good God, tell me to stop.

But there's one thing I know for sure, that real life can be just as super hot for long-time lovers. For example, recently the Mama read to me one of those fun sidebars from one of her Oprah magazines (which I actually had to look through to find again for myself -- ugh):

Overrated Sex: All night long
Underrated Sex: Wham, bam, thank you, man!

Add up those wham bams and you've got one hot lovin' super nova. Through all the years and a few ups and downs that even we have had, intimacy it a critical priority. Early on we made it so and told each other if we ever strayed to never come home. Seriously. Flirtation is one thing, but infidelity is the ultimate killer and actually a symptom of something missing, maybe multiple things, usually passion and intimacy, so our recommendation is don't ever frickin' lose it if you believe in it and long to keep it.

Do whatever you have to do to make that whoopee. Growing up I remember catching my Grandpa grabbing my Grandma's behind and patting it gently as he whispered something in her ear, even after 60 years of marriage. I proudly carry on that tradition today.

Of course real life gets in the way of mutual desire, like a belligerent drunk buddy who steps on your foot and leans over you to hit on your girl sitting at the bar next to you. You sulk away to the bathroom nurse the foot and the ego, and when you recover, you're either too tired or too stressed or too busy or too --

The Mama and I experience all this, but we want make it all work and keep the love simmering to a boil. Later today we'll go down to the place we met on the beach all those years ago and read our wedding vows to each other. It's a way for us to honor our love for one another, a reminder that two halves can and do make two wholes, a loving family, a continuous adventure and being the omniscient narrators of our own Rom-Com movie that goes on and on and on and on.

That's why you should always celebrate the wham-bams and all in between. Always.

Happy Anniversary Hot Stuff.




Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy 50th Birthday to Me

“I’ve gone through life white-knuckled
In the moments that left me behind
Refusing to heed the yield
I penetrate the force fields in the blind
They say I'll adjust
God knows I must
But I'm not sure how
This natural selection picked me out to be
A dark horse running in a fantasy…”

—The Killers, Flesh and Bone


Like a ship on fire in the vacuum of space, I burned helplessly mute. In space, fire is unpredictable and tenacious, burning for longer periods of time, even when it seems to be out. In space, there is literally no sound, at least none heard like we can on planet earth.

So there I was, spiraling out of control and burning blue, when finally earth's gravity wound me back in and down to crash landing after crash landing. I escaped the fiery wreckage each and every time, but not before sustaining a recurring emotional concussion, one that made me feel insignificant and unworthy. One that left me wanting to run sobbing into the unknown horizon, to the point of know return.

I was 17 years old when my anxiety and crippling panic attacks started. Mostly from the inordinate pressure I put on myself to be liked, to succeed, to not be the skinny and shy asthmatic kid I used to be. Yes, I'd survived growing up in domestic violence and sexual abuse, but I never wore those chains like radioactive bling for all to see. In fact, I didn't really connect the past to the present anxiety until therapy in my 20's.

My memories weren't repressed, just more like emotional missives written but never sent to the ones who cared for me the most, the ones who misunderstood me. My interstellar trauma trips continued throughout my life, but thankfully decreased dramatically over the past two decades.

When I was in college I used to imagine what my world would be like in the year 2000, the year I'd turn 35. Envisioning that future-scape included visions of grandeur and popularity, of complete self-awareness and impulse control, of being anxiety free, of being smoke-free and healthy, of saving children from violence and abuse, of being loved by the love of my life, of being a good husband and father, of having the peaceful popularity of being the next Lee and Kerouac and Faulkner and Hemingway and writing my own great American neo-hipster novel. All before running out of time.

Back then I would've said you were as crazy as a loon if you thought I'd someday be comfortable in my own skin, mostly impenetrable from the extreme temperatures of the ever-expanding universe and the very fabric of relative time.

Now, in 2015, you weren't so crazy after all. Although I'm nobody's hero, I am a survivor who finally learned how to cope and manage the rhythm of my own overreactions and who's navigated life's booms and busts fairly well with a sometimes witty, self-deprecating grace. Sometimes...

And although I didn't write that novel yet, I have found a modicum of success and I did find the love of my life -- and two little lovely girls later, the fatherhood I never had as a child. I've learned that you don't ever run out of time, you just learn how to run alongside it and make it a partner for life for whatever duration that ends up being.

In space, no one can hear you burn. Welcome to planet earth, Kevin. And welcome home.

Happy 50th birthday to me.