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 28, 2017

Be Part of the Solution

One minute I was happily serving drinks, and the next minute I blacked out. And I don’t think the Mickey was meant for me.

Neither of us did. A few years before our oldest Beatrice was born, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I attended a coworker’s Halloween party. Dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia, we volunteered to help run one of the backyard bars.

We were having a lot of fun chatting it up with dozens of different people dressed in all sorts of great costumes, most of whom we didn’t know. The Mama was a much better barkeep than me since she’d worked in restaurants over the years and did some bartending. She helped me mix the drinks and I mostly stayed with serving beer and wine.

Maybe two hours or so into the party, I felt wasted. Literally shitfaced. And I shouldn’t have been. I’d only had a few glasses of wine.

“Are you okay?” the Mama asked.

Thankfully the crowd had thinned at our bar, because the world spun way too fast for me at that point.

“I feel really drunk,” I said.

“Wow, you're slurring. You haven’t had that much to drink. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t feel good,” I said. Although I probably said, I stone fee goo.

“I have to go to the bathroom now.”

I af to go to da bamoom now.

We went to the bathroom and then went back to bartending. A while later it was time to go and that was when the world became an acrylic swirl of black and yellow light like Van Gogh’s Night Sky. I barely remember the Mama putting me in our car and driving us home. Then I vaguely remember stumbling into our house. She knew something was definitely wrong at that point.

The next morning we reviewed the night. I had a killer headache and there was no way it was just from the wine I drank. After some research online, we agreed that something had been put into my drink, probably what’s known as a rufie, the date-rape drug.

But again, we don’t think it was meant for me. Probably another woman. Whenever it happened, however it happened, and whoever it was intended for, I happened to be the unlucky victim of a drug-induced blackout. Thank God my wife was there to take care of me. Again, most of the party goers were strangers to us, so it could have been anybody.

After telling my coworker about it, she was mortified and said she’d look into it. These people were her and her husband’s friends, and sure enough, she uncovered someone they knew who had tried to drug someone at a previous party, but denied having anything to do with what happened to me. Without proof, there was nothing she could do about it, or we could do about.

What if I was a woman and the intended victim? What would’ve happened to me? Would I have been sexually assaulted? Would it have been someone I knew, or a stranger?

Today I’m an appointed volunteer on the Santa Cruz Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women (CPVAW) and part of our mission is to partner with local law enforcement and collect data on a variety of CA penal codes to better understand the nature of sexual assaults, occurring within Santa Cruz, and distribute this information to our community. Some of our findings from 2014-2016 of non-juvenile cases to be released soon include:

  • In 40% of the incidences of reported rape or attempted rape, the suspects were acquaintances of the victims.
  • 86% of the victims reporting sexual assault are Santa Cruz City locals.
  • Women between the ages of 18-29 make up 45% of the victims reporting sexual assaults.
  • Suspects were 59% locals, 32% unknown and 9% visitors to the area.
  • Alcohol was involved in 42% of the cases reported between 2014-16.

One of these days our girls will be young adults and may go to parties like this, whether locally or at college or wherever they end up living. Wherever that will be, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Mix in alcohol and powerful sedative drugs and you've got a very dangerous combination for potential victims. We can't be there all the time to protect our girls, but we can educate them to be aware and protect themselves.

The work we do at CPVAW has a broader mission of ending sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the City of Santa Cruz through prevention, programs, and public policy. October has also been domestic violence awareness month, and 1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime and an average of 3 women die every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. Growing up, my sister and I witnessed my mother suffer continuous verbal and physical abuse, another reason why I speak up about it. To give voice to those who need help.

Recently on Facebook a friend asked why men don't speak up about the #metoo movement (the sharing on social media by other women who have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted), and also why so many men stand by and let harassment and sexual assault happen (and anything related to violence against women).

My response was simple:

I have stood by. I have called out. I have harassed. I have been harassed. I have never sexually assaulted anyone. I have been sexually assaulted

My wife and I have two young daughters who we are empowering to be strong and be part of the solution. As parents, we all have an ultimate responsibility to instill in both girls and boys their own sense of personal responsibility, empathy, compassion, to be safe with their bodies and their minds, to not react inappropriately and violently, and to encourage all of the above with others. We need to be clear with our children that violence against women and girls, men or boys, including sexual assault, harassment, bullying or anything related is never okay.

So let's be part of the solution, today.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Just Another Saturday

I just needed to pee when the Mama called to me from downstairs.

"Kevin, where are you? I need to talk to you about something important right now."

Her voice sounded off, odd, like she was uncomfortable about something. There was also an accusatory tone, as if I should be reading her mind to understand whatever the heck was going on as she bounded up the stairs. What did I do? I thought. Wait, nothing. All I knew is that we were getting ready to go to Bryce's soccer game.

"Kevin, where are you?"

"Going to the bathroom!" I called back at her.

That's when I heard a helicopter overhead. Then a plane fly by. Then the helicopter again. Then another plane. The Mama, what I lovingly call my wife, came into our bathroom where I was.

"There's a fire in Moore Creek down the street. We have to go now."

The "go now" part stung, as if the Mama had wagged her finger in front of me and then poked me hard in the chest. Her very being was all resolve and purpose betrayed only by the fear in her eyes.

"Sweetie, we have to pack some things and go," she said. "Our neighbor said they'll be closing the road soon."

We heard multiple firetrucks and police cars scream by us down the highway. The helicopter and planes flew overhead again. Moore Creek was right at the end of our street, where other friends of ours lived, whose children went to school with our girls. The property behind us lined with eucalyptus trees had ground cover as dry as kindling and most likely ready to go up in flames if the fire reached it. One of the eucalyptus had fallen into a neighbor's house over the last rainy winter, and when we saw the two feet of tree debris all over the ground soaking wet, we knew at some point it would dry out and be quite combustible.

"I have to pee first!" was all I could say to the Mama. Because I did, before I did anything else. Then I could get moving.

She went into our closet and came out with our home safe, full of important family paperwork among other things. It's a heavy little sucker, and yet, it was if she were holding a newborn close to her chest.

"Okay, that's fine," she said. "Then help me get some things together. We have to go before the road closes."

"Wait, have you heard anything on the news? Do we have to evacuate? What do we know? Let's not overreact if we don't know exactly what's happening."

"I only know that we have to go," she said.

That was enough for me.

Ten minutes earlier it was just another Saturday. Soccer games and errands and family time in between. Now there was a fire down the street, how serious we didn't really know yet. We do get local Nixle alerts, but there had been none yet notifying us of anything including whether or not we should evacuate. And considering all the wildfires north of us in Santa Rosa, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes, we weren't going to take any chances.

Because what do you take when you don't know how much time you have, when you may not have any time at all? We have disaster plans, at least frameworks to work within in order to get out, to meet up elsewhere if separated. Extra food and water in the garage if trapped at home. And so on. I carried the safe downstairs.

"Sweetie, get the suitcase for me," the Mama called down.

"I will. I'm going to pack the computers and devices for us."

"Yes, please do."

The girls had already been calmly tasked to pack a few things they wanted to bring. They were stuffed animals and a few toys, of course.

"Is our house going to burn down?" Beatrice asked.

"No, honey, but we need to be safe and go somewhere else for a while just until the firefighters put the fire out."

While the Mama kept packing I started to load our car. The Cal Fire helicopter and planes kept circling and dropping water on the mountainside and I could see the smoke for the first time, although I couldn't smell it. More first responders raced down the highway with sirens blaring. Many people were outside including our neighbors, some of whom walked down the street to investigate further. A Nixle alert did appear on my phone, but only to say the highway was now closed due to a fire and to stay tuned for more updates. Nothing about evacuation.

After getting everything into the car except the suitcase, our neighbor called us and said she and her son were at the end of the street and the firefighters had just put the fire out. But another Nixle alert told me that the highway and part of our road would be closed for awhile. At least we were safe for now and the firefighters had quickly contained the blaze.

"What about the guinea pigs?" the girls had asked.

Prior to knowing the fire was more or less out, the question of what to do with the guinea pigs came up. Their cage would fit in the car, that wasn't a problem, but if we ended up stranded somewhere, there was no way we could keep them in the car. It would be too hot. And the eventual smell of course. Maybe we could drop them off at a friend's house. Or maybe we just couldn't take them with us. Thankfully we didn't have to end up making that call.

Because what do you take when you don't know how much time you have, when you may not have any time at all? Your family, maybe your pets if realistic, and a few critical items like important paperwork, medicines if any, computers and/or devices, some clothes and toiletries. Everything else has to stay -- and you have to go. Now. While we packed our stuff I remembered looking at all our family pictures hanging on the wall and thinking I have all of these digitally, so we can print them again. 

We did end up going on with our day as planned, but it felt off, odd, like the tone of the Mama's voice when she first called to me upstairs only 30 minutes earlier. Should we have stayed and waited to ensure things didn't flare up again and that we'd really have to evacuate? Once we were away from our house without the stuff we packed, there would be no way to get back if things went south, and everything could've been lost.

But it wasn't. It was just another Saturday. God bless those who have lost.

The next morning the Mama said to me, "You know what?"


"We forgot the key to the safe when we packed everything up."

"Again with the keys," I said.

The Mama laughed. "But it's not like we couldn't have broken into it. It's not that great of a safe."

"That's comforting," I said.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Of All The Things

“Always take a big bite
It's such a gorgeous sight
To see you in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It's Friday
I'm in love…”

— The Cure, Friday I’m in Love

The song rocked sweetly in my head as it played overhead while we walked back to our hotel after some shopping. It’s Friday, I’m in love. A week of successful work travel behind me, and still on the mend, and now my wife was with me in Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate our 20-year anniversary of the day we met on the beach (14 years of marriage and the same date). The song was one of many special ones to us we had put on our wedding soundtrack to celebrate Friday date nights.

We walked hand in hand, and then my wife, who I affectionately call the Mama, said, “When we get back to the room we’ll call the girls.”

"Yes, absolutely."

One of our dear friends was watching our girls for the weekend at our house, and no sooner than the Mama had finished saying “the girls,” we were both texted.

I pulled my phone out to read the text. It was from that dear friend watching our girls. It was right after school, so she had picked them up and was bringing them back to our house.

Hi, out your house. Didn’t find a house key in either backpack.

“Sweetie, did you give Laura our key?”

No response. She was reading the text, too.


“No, no I didn’t. I totally forgot.”

“Are you serious?”

The usual edge I get when things go south slashed away at the air between us.

“I can’t remember everything, Kevin. There was so much to do before I left. I just forget to give her the keys.”

I took a beat and a breath, still mentally slashing away in the air.

“There’s a spare in the garage,” the Mama went on.

“No, there’s not," I said.

“Yes, the one by the furnace.”

I shook my head. “That was the one to get into the office and guest room through the garage, but not for the house."

The Mama asked Laura to look for the key, but it wasn’t there.

She then looked at me and asked, “Wasn’t there a key in the office, too?”

“No, we took both keys out years out. There’s nothing out there anymore.”

“Then we’ll have to call a locksmith," she said without missing a beat.

More slashing at the air. “Are you kidding me? That could be hundreds of dollars. No way!”

“Then how are they going to get in?”

“Can they spend the night at Laura’s and we’ll FedEx our key now? Every casino with a conference center has a FedEx office.”

The Mama thought about it.


She kept talking with our friend Laura on the phone and I just kept on stewing. I knew my wife had a lot going on with work and the girls, taking care of me before I traveled, and the fact that I’d already been gone for nearly a week.

But of all the things, the house key? Ugh. I mean, you can forget toothpaste and underwear, but the house key for your babysitter? It wasn’t exactly like the movie Home Alone, but I still failed to reign in my discontent.

“I get forgetting other things to do before you left, but the house key? How could you forget to give the house key to Laura?”

That did it. Too much push.

“Sweetie, stop it. It’s done. I forgot, okay? Nothing we can do about that now!"

We both sent quiet. Then she spoke up again.

"What about our neighbor? Could he get in and open the door for her and the girls?”

I always love how she moves on immediately identifying solutions. I still have to extinguish the stewing before I move.

“Is the upstairs bedroom window still open?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s open.”

“Then most likely, yes, he can get in.”

Our neighbor had been up on his own two-story roof more than once, so I knew he could he could get to our window that way as well. We've never had to do it, and we've never tried, because the Mama has always said the second story is off limits anyway due to, you know, gravity. I called our neighbor and he confirmed he could do it, just not until later in the day. After that, we both felt better knowing that at least they’d get into the house eventually.

“If they can’t get in, we’re going to have to call a locksmith then," the Mama said as we continued to walk back to our hotel.


"Yes, I know," I said. "Love you."

"Love you."

And then I added. "We're going to make Laura a friggin' key, Sweetie."

"Yes, I know."

The Mama stopped and checked her phone. "Wait a minute, they're in."

I checked my phone at the same time reading the same new text.

Mike is climbing through window now. Do we need to worry about an alarm?

Mike is Laura's husband and obviously was now climbing in our upstairs bedroom window.

We are in the house now.

Both the Mama and I smiled. I texted Laura back.

Wow. We’re going to make you a key.

We thanked Laura and Mike profusely. After we got back to our hotel room and talked with the girls on FaceTime, our anniversary weekend was back on track. Of all the things I love about the Mama, her ability to pivot and adapt to nearly every situation, big or small, positive or negative, and then think rationally about solutions, is probably the most inspiring thing of all (I remember the fire on Maui and many other examples). That and the way she cares for our girls and for me of late with my recent health issues again solidified for me why she's the woman of my dreams and why we're celebrating 20 years.

Twenty years of living fully and mostly well, loving comfortably within our lives. Amen to our #BhivePower.

"For 20 years now you’ve been my inspirational muse,
My stunning ache, and the us of which we choose.
We want to believe our two halves will always grow
Intact as two wholes that the end of days will show,
And until then we will live fully and mostly well,
Loving comfortably within our lives, our endless tell."

—Excerpt from a poem I wrote for the Mama on our anniversary

Sunday, October 8, 2017

To Have All the Time I Need

“When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I've got that feeling once again
I can't explain you would not understand
This is not how I am…”

— Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb

It was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday. All I could do was selfishly think about me, of what was known and not known, and what I may miss if things got worse. Even with family and friends telling me happy birthday over and over, and asking me how I felt over and over, I didn't feel any better.

I just didn't hear a lot of it. Couldn't hear a lot of it. Didn't want to hear a lot of it. Not even the familiar daily banter from our children sharing what had happened at school that day. Then my wife, the Mama as I affectionately call her, started asking me questions about how I was feeling and what I should do next with the doctors, and what her and my sister talked about, and don't forget this, and don't forget that --

"Stop treating me like a child!"

That's the way it is with me. The emotional paralysis followed by the simmer to slow boil to trashing the familial stove with my angry froth. The Mama kept calm and waited for my next move.

"You make it sound like I don't know what I'm doing and that I underserve myself with the doctors, that I don't want to be well," I said.

"Sweetie, I just care about you and want to do everything we can to make sure you get better and it doesn't happen again. I'm not trying to treat you like a child."

"Well, that's what it sounds like when I talk to both you and my sister. I just want to be well, Amy. I just want to be well and it sucks that this happened and keeps happening. I take care of myself."

"I know, Sweetie. I'm sorry. I love you. I want you to be well, too."

"I just want to be well. And I'm worried when I go back in tomorrow, they're going to want me to stay in the hospital again.

"I know, I know. I love you."

All this within earshot of our two girls, already worried enough for about as much as a seven and nine-year-old can and will worry about circumstances such as these.

"Are you and Dad fighting?" Beatrice asked the Mama.

"No, honey. Just talking about Daddy getting better, that's all."

"Dad, it's your birthday," said Beatrice.

"Happy Birthday!" chimed in Bryce.

Yes, yes it is. It's my friggin' birthday and I'm alive, Sweetie. Amen.

Less than two weeks prior to this, I had a fever and painful lumps where there shouldn't have been any -- let's just say, where the sun don't shine. Over three days they seemed appear, although who knows how long they'd been brewing (there were other possibly connected precipitating factors since June). All I knew is that I had to go see my doctor, because within a week after that, I'd be traveling extensively again for work. Or not. That remained to be seen at that point.

But after visiting my primary care physician, she immediately urged me to go to urgent care. And then from urgent care, they recommended I go to the emergency room immediately. Because of being with Kaiser, which is still expanding in Santa Cruz, that meant we had to go to the hospital in San Jose. The Mama asked one of our dear friends to watch the girls overnight, not knowing what would happen next.

The Mama drove me to the hospital, but on the way first we stopped by to see the girls where our friend had taken them to dinner. That was painfully awkward, because our oldest knew something was up more than us telling her that "Daddy just needed to get some tests." Her stress was obvious, although my youngest seemed more oblivious, something I was thankful for. We gave them big hugs and were on our way.

Once at the hospital and the tests run and examinations complete, the consensus was that it was an infected abscess that had to be surgically treated, although they had no idea about the other areas at that point. Spending the night in hospital was inevitable at this point and they did try to reassure me that this happens to people of all ages. During recovery I missed my girls and worked, of course, and by midday the next day, I was discharged.

The whole time before and after the surgery, the only thing the Mama and I could think about was when my sister had gotten so sick the year before. Within three days she'd gone septic and had to be sedated for nearly two weeks, with a dismal prognosis overall. The fear of multiple infections, especially getting something more virulent while in the hospital, scared us to no end. Cancer never came up, and besides a high white blood cell count, was never considered (at least as of now).

All I could think about was my family first -- what would we have to do if things went south on us. That's a dark rabbit hole no one wants to go down.

And then there was everything else I'd been working on to prep for my nonprofit Talent Board's big one day symposium and awards gala in Nashville, less than a week away at that point. So much blood, sweat and tears that I wanted to see come to fruition, to celebrate with my team, our volunteers, sponsors and research participants.

However, the surgeons felt like I'd be okay if I kept the areas clean and if my wife helped with the dressing and the packing before I left, and then come back in one week to check in (after my event in Nashville). Now, there's no reason to go into detail here, but I have one amazing and loving wife for her to care for me the way she has. God bless that beautiful woman. We're now only one week from our 20-year anniversary from that one day on the beach.

Which brings me back to my birthday and just wanting to be well. To have decades more to spend with my wife and my children. Unfortunately there's another hot spot on my body being monitored and checked for other infections, but I do feel better overall. Antibiotics consumed and no fever since surgery and the other areas have nearly healed all the way.

Yes, it was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday. But I'm alive and mostly well and live fully and comfortably within that life. Every single day. A life that's inextricably linked to my dear daughters and my amazing wife, and so many other family and friends who care enough to tell me happy birthday over and over, and that hope I feel better soon.

Because I just want to be well, to be there for them. To have all the time I need, for them and for me. I will not imagine otherwise. This is not how I am.