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, August 20, 2017

Grown Men Friends and Fathers

It was the first sleepover for us. Well, kind of.

At least I framed it that way for the girls, and my youngest, Bryce, had something to say about that.

"No Daddy, it wasn't a sleepover. They didn't sleep in our room with us."

"Well, okay, but it was still a sleepover. They all slept out in the guest room last night, and before that we had pizza after going to the Boardwalk, and pancakes this morning," I said.

Beatrice chimed in. "No, Daddy, having our cousin here was the first sleepover." (Which had been the case many times already.)

I shook my head. "No, family doesn't really count when it comes to sleepovers."

"Yes, it does."

Sigh.

Yep, splitting rites-of-passage hairs here, but it still sounded fun that it could've been a maybe first sleepover. Like one with training wheels. The girls have asked more than once to have a sleepover with their friends from school, but we're not ready for the real friends-in-the-same-room-all-night-shrieking-and-laughing-without-any-sleep ones yet.

The reality was that Troy, my best friend from college, brought his three kids down to see us, all of whom are close to the age of our girls, and it had been at least two years since we had seen them all. A TKE fraternity brother, a diehard Oakland Raiders and a Rush (the band) fan as well, we've kept our friendship tethered by our witty (and silly) text banter. He's an airline pilot and always on the road, so we don't talk much and/or see each other as much as we used to -- all those college years and Rush rock concerts ago.

And like my friends from over four decades ago, Troy is also now a man of a consequential age. We've known each other for just over 30 years, and since college, damn if we haven't seen our own share of falling outs, falling downs and heartbreaks with just enough silver linings to keep us bound to one another through it all.

And to keep the levity flowing by repeating personal catch phrases that no one else in the world understands, especially our own children.

"Troy, Troy, Troy -- pick up the phone and shore up the Ders D!"

"Kev -- Mitch called. Ders will be fine dude."

Those were the more innocuous ones. There are others. There will always be others.

So after me saying the "Troy, Troy, Troy" multiple times, followed by some obscure reference, Beatrice asked me:

"Daddy, why are you making fun of your friend?"

"I'm not making fun of him, Sweetie. I love him; he's my friend. It's just something we've done for a long, long time."

And then I thought, There are stories behind the catch phrases, Sweetie. So many stories. I hope you and your sister will have lifelong friends like this. In fact, the good news is that, statistically speaking, you will. 

"Troy, Troy, Troy!" Bryce echoes and laughs.

We gave my friend and his kids hugs and sent them on their way. I hoped we'd have another sleepover sooner than later. You know, like most grown men friends and fathers do.

And we're okay with that.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Men of a Consequential Age

When we first arrived, I didn't think much about it. It bugged me a little, but I didn't speak up then, the fact that one of my best friends from four decades ago and then some, who I hadn't talked much with for the past 21 years, had gotten out of the car and greeted another mutual friend with multiple expletives.

It was again our annual trek to Chico to see another mutual best friend, one who had broken his neck during a swim meet way back in our senior year of high school. Everyone had already arrived and we were the last three to get there. I unloaded my stuff from the car and noticed Robby's neighbor standing in his yard, since I had to parking partly in front of his house, and I was sure he heard the F-bombs being dropped during the affectionate greeting.

In all fairness he wasn't the only one cursing. Every year when we get together we catch up and talk about our lives and the world around us and always make it a priority to congregate and elevate our connected spirits.

Yes, we're a lot older and supposedly more mature, having somewhat successful professional lives, and half of us having families and children of varying ages, but of course we're not too mature to completely devolve into our ranting, cursing, snorting, pig-like beings of old.

C'mon, give us a break, right? We love each other.

When you've been friends for over 40 years, there's a lot emotional crap that has transpired within our ranks. There are moments like Robby's accident that altered all our worlds dramatically, that forever bound us together, our lives and futures inextricably linked in a lifetime of friendship, always laced with happy silver linings and much needed laughter.

And for guys to stay friends as long as we have, even when some of us had a falling out for a time, that's something to celebrate with beer, fist bumps and F-bombs.

Now back to the latest visit -- after an hour or so I went outside to unload some more of my stuff for the weekend and in front of my friend's neighbor's house sat two little girls in front of a lemonade stand. A pretty decent one for that matter. They were both around my girls ages and they called out to me to buy a glass.

"Do you want to buy some lemonade?"

It's really hot in Chico California during the summertime, and this day was no exception. It was at least 96 degrees outside.

I walked over to the lemonade stand and said, "How much?"

One of the girls said, "Twenty-five cents."

"Wow, that's a great deal. You should be charging more."

I could see them thinking about that, and then one said, "Well, we've already made some money, and twenty-five cents is the going rate you know."

I could see about five quarters nestled neatly in the bottom of one of the plastic cups they served their pink lemonade in.

"Thank you, this is delicious," I said after taking a sip.

"You're welcome," one of the girls answered. "Thank you."

I went back to Robby's house and set the lemonade on the counter. It wasn't until the next morning I realized I hadn't finished it (it was actually really good). I also realized I needed to ask the guys to please keep it down when we were outside together in the backyard and to watch the cursing. Again, half of our group are father's with grown children as well as younger children like mine. Just like the two girls at the lemonade stand.

We are men of a consequential age, and although I have no qualms about the levity we share and the inappropriateness of some of it in the context of our pasts and the present, what we share doesn't need to spill out over the neighbor's fence to the ears of young children, especially little girls. My friends agreed, of course.

Because we're trying to be the good guys, we really are, and unfortunately today more than ever a toxic incivility abounds everywhere we go, one that has seeped into our societal ground water and continues to poison future generations. Too many hateful people think they can and should be able to do whatever they want regardless of race and/or gender and/or socio-economic status and/or political affiliation, spouting hate and untruths and running people down in the streets like what happened with the protests in Virginia, all during the weekend my friends and I spent together.

I love these guys, my friends, I really do, and we have a responsibility to our boys and girls and others younger and older to understand personal responsibility, consequence and empathy. We are men of a consequential age, and our friendship is telling of the healing bonds that can be.



Monday, August 7, 2017

When You Are the Poop

“My home is my office — to interrupt is lawless!”

—Portlandia, Working from Home


"You're okay with the girls at home while I go to this meeting?" the Mama asks, what I lovingly call my wife.

I'm busy working, so I don't respond.

"Sweetie, will it work? It's been on the family calendar for awhile now. I have to go to this meeting."

"Yes," I answer relunctantly. "I have calls, though, so the girls will have to deal."

"So, you may or may not check in on them if they need something?"

This of course was a joke based on the Portlandia skit called Working from Home.

I smile. "This is my work space, sweetie," I say, moving my hands in circular motions to represent all the space around me.

And so it goes. The part where you work from home and you have kids at home and it truly is a partnership with your spouse, who actually leaves the house for work much more than you do, except when you're traveling for work. The Mama and I have figured out the balance for the most part, but it doesn't mean there isn't comedic irony at times.

Like when you teach your children to text and FaceTime on their hand-me-down devices. We only let them text and FaceTime us -- Mommy and Daddy -- and we tell them not to text or FaceTime us while we're working.

Which means that's the only time they text us. Recently during three back-to-back work calls, I was texted and FaceTimed at least 50 times. They blew up my phone and my MacBook repeatedly -- and giggled exponentially the whole time.

*sigh*

Then there's the infamous Bryce who's hungry every 20 minutes and boundaries aren't a thing. There's been more than one call or podcast I'm recording where I've had to paused because Bryce comes out to my office and says:

"Daddy, I'm hungry."

And then I say, "Sweetie, I'm on a call, so you're going to have to wait another 10 minutes."

"I don't want to wait 10 minutes. I'm hungry now!"

*sigh*

Or the many other times when:


  • Beatrice comes out to tell me Bryce has hit her.
  • Bryce comes out to tell me she's hungry.
  • Beatrice comes out to ask me if she can have a sweet snack, which she knows the answer is no. Every. Single. Time.
  • Bryce comes out to tell me Beatrice has hit her.
  • Bryce comes out to tell me she's hungry.
  • Beatrice comes out to ask me if she can text Mommy since I'm not responding to her texts.
  • Bryce comes out to tell me she can't find one of her toys.
  • Beatrice comes out to tell me she can't find the TV remote.
  • Bryce comes out to tell me she's hungry.

Text, text, text, FaceTime...


Now, I'm not always working out in my office, since the Mama prefers I stay in the house when she's gone and I don't have an important call, but there are the times in between working when we workout in our garage home gym, and that's either a great time for the Mama and I to catch up, or for me to have some me time with my podcasts and exercise.

But then--

A little head peeks out into the garage.

"Daddy," says Bryce, "there's a little spider inside on my kitty Mittens and Beatrice and I need help getting it off and outside."

"Bryce, I'm right in the middle of my workout. Is it a big spider?"

That question is erroneous, since a spider is a spider is a spider and needs to be removed, especially if the Mama was there, which in this instance she isn't.

"Daddy, please come get the spider and put it outside so it can live and my kitty will be okay. Beatrice and I can't get it."

"But I'm right in the middle of my--"

"Daddy, please."

*sigh*

"Yes, I will get the spider for you."

I reluctantly stop peddling the recumbent bicycle and go into the house. There it is, a little spider sitting on Mittens, the white stuffed kitten. I take it outside and shake it off into the backyard. I return Mittens to Bryce.

"Thank you, Daddy," she says.

"Yes, thank you, Daddy," says Beatrice. "We just couldn't get it outside. And you know how freaked out Mommy gets with spiders."

So, you may or may not check in on them if they need something?

I smile, hug both girls and go back out into the garage to finish my workout. I knew then as I know every single time I'm interrupted at home by my children is that, I'm home with my children. During the school year, during summer break, any time unless I'm traveling for work. That's where I'm fortunate  -- to be home with my children, even when they tell me "Daddy, you're always working," or when they text me "you are the poop."

Because when you are the poop, nothing else matters.