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, December 31, 2017

This Week on the Top 11 GOTG Posts for 2017

This week on the top 11 GOTG posts for 2017:

11. From Boys to Better Men

I was called a lezbian man-hater for marching...

10. Men of a Consequential Age

When we first arrived, I didn't think much about it...

9. The Hard C

She asked the person to remove the C-word from the Facebook post...

8. Stay Classy, America

Something was wrong...

7. Real Friends Transcendent

It was like every teen friendship movie we've ever seen, except played out in grade school...

6. Because There's Always a Next Time

After the first game, one of the parents said, "Headline reads: The Tigers get pounced!"

5. Just Another Saturday

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

4. Of All the Things

The song rocked sweetly in my head as it played overhead while we walked back to our hotel after some shopping...

3. One of the 99

I thought we were going to talk about something else...

2. 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...

1. To Have All the Time I Need

It was hard enough just to get through the workday, being depressed on my birthday...

Thank you for reading. Get off the ground and make a stand happen in 2018. Happy Parenting and Happy New Year!

Human Like Us

As we drove by, I watched him cut his hair with an electric razor as he stood on the sidewalk. I’d seen him park his older nondescript van there before, in front of our neighbor’s house three houses down. But I’d never seen him outside shaving his head with an electric razor plugged into the neighbor’s porch outlet.

That’s odd, I thought, watching him in the rearview mirror.

“Did you see that guy?” I asked my wife.

“What guy?”

She obviously hadn’t seen him, so I waited until we parked in our driveway and got out.

“That guy,” I said, pointing down the street along the sidewalk.

She stopped and nodded. “Yes, what’s he doing?”

“He’s cutting his hair. Maybe shaving his head actually. On the sidewalk. And he’s plugged into our neighbor’s house.”

“Maybe he’s a friend of theirs,” she said.

“Maybe, but I’m not sure they’re home.”

It was Christmas day and we’d just returned from an outing with our girls. Immediately I felt conflicted – on the one hand I wanted to walk down and ask him who he was and what he was doing there, and on the other hand I wanted to check with our neighbors first if they knew him. There had already been other neighbors finding phone chargers plugged into their front porch outlets, which unfortunately wasn’t unusual with the homeless traffic that frequented our way. We live on the edge of town and just beyond our neighborhood are homeless encampments in the hills. In fact, there have been more brazen encampments on either side of Highway 1 near where we live.

I felt conflicted because I thought it pretty bold for a homeless man to park his van in front of a neighbor’s house and start living in their front yard and driveway while they were away. Our new police chief recently mandated that, unless there is a complaint by someone in control of that property or some other crime or nuisance behavior is taking place, they wouldn't enforce the city’s overnight sleeping/camping ban. He also encouraged city and county leaders to work together to create better long-term solutions to homelessness.

There are pockets near us around the outskirts of the city limits where homeless camping via cars and motorhomes is constant. Our county’s overall homeless population exceeds 2,000, which made it the eighth largest in the country, compared to 306 other small regions, according to our local paper and a U.S. Housing and Urban Development report.

And the population has increased, "Overall, homelesssness increased in Santa Cruz County by 15 percent in 2017, compared to a similar one-day count conducted in January 2015. With the exception of 2015’s significant 44.5 percent drop, the region’s homeless population has generally remained steady through the years, according to homeless census data."

“Should I call the police?” I asked my wife.

“Not yet. Why don’t you try to contact the neighbors and see if they know him first.”

I emailed them and then called them, leaving a voice mail. I still wasn’t sure they were gone, but it looked more like it. My conflict grew, primarily because I felt like if it were us being the ones gone, and someone was doing that in front of our house, we’d want them to do something. Contact us. Call the police. Ask the person who they were and what they were doing.

“I have to go down there,” I said. "What if he's a pedophile? I don't want him down there."

My wife stopped what she was doing and channeled her Kidpower. “We don't know that. We don’t know who he is and yes, it could be a safety issue, so I don't want you going down there. Maybe he’s mentally ill. Either way our rule is to be aware, move away and get help if needed.”

“But what if it was us? I should at least call the police.”

“I understand, but they may not do anything. They aren’t enforcing the camping ban.”

“But I have to do something.”

“It’s Christmas, Sweetie. Let it be. If he’s still there later doing questionable stuff, then we call. But do not go down there.”

“Fine,” I said. Although I still didn’t agree about not walking down to talk with the guy, about not doing anything. I thought of my father, a policeman and detective for 32 years, and knew he would've walked down the street and asked the guy what he was up to. Not to aggressively confront, just to be neighborly. But I'm not a policeman, and I'm not my father. I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So best to monitor and wait and call the police if I need be.

On the eve of our annual holiday Disneyland trip, I remembered the homeless women in Anaheim from last year. She was a large women, parked quietly at a bus stop, and she smelled really bad. The girls asked why she was sitting there like that. We told them the poor woman didn't have anywhere else to go. She didn't talk with anyone or ask for any money, just sat with her eyes closed, seemingly asleep. Everyone walked by her as if she didn't exist. We struggled with what to do, if anything, and ended up not doing anything. Two days later she was gone.

I struggled with what to do again this time, although the circumstances were much different. Of course homelessness is much more complex than any experience we've ever had personally. According to an analysis earlier this year in Santa Cruz, over half the homeless have been homeless for a year or more and also suffer from one or more disabling conditions like substance abuse, psychiatric conditions, physical disabilities and more. Sadly one in three have been in jail within the past year as well. Then there's the harsh reality for too many homeless is that there is a potential violence and sexual abuse that comes from living on the street. I went on a ride along with an officer recently and we picked up a transient felon with weapons who had violated his parole.

Safety first for our families and communities, but we talk about the homeless as if they're another species, one whose poor choices, addictions, mental illnesses and/or other tragic circumstances have evolved them into societal blights. The reality is they're human like us, and at any given time we can become them because of the same genetic disposition and/or unfortunate circumstance.

The day after Christmas on our way to Disneyland this year, I received an email reply from our neighbors about the van-driving hair trimmer:

Hi Kevin,
Thanks so much for watching out for us, much appreciated!
In this case all is well. He’s our long-time friend, and in this case house sitting for us.
He does cut his own hair and didn't want to get little bits of hair all over inside.
Hope you all have enjoyed your Christmas, we wish you all the best in the new year.

Well, I'll be damned, although cutting hair on the sidewalk is still odd. We wish you all the best as well. 

Happy New Year. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Christmas Wish of Awareness

"To know love, men must be able to let go the will to dominate. They must be able to choose life over death. They must be willing to change."

--bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

It was in that moment that every inappropriate word and action against women I had ever witnessed in my lifetime slithered into my consciousness and catcalled my own male guilt.

Fifteen minutes earlier the rental car driver came to the body shop to pick me up and take me to their office to get our rental car. We were having our car fixed and had to leave it at the body shop for a few days. My driver was an older man, maybe late fifties, and he had the local classic rock radio channel on.

"Right on," I said. "I love the Hippo." That was the colloquial name for the rock station KHIP.

"Me too," he said. "Gotta have my rock and roll."

"Yes, indeed," I said.

As we backed out of our parking spot, a woman pulled in and parked the truck she drove. We waited for her to get out and cross in front of us to enter the body shop office.

"She's cute," my driver said.

"Yes," I said, not really thinking about it. I just wanted to get my rental car and get back to work.

He shook his head and laughed. "You know, you can't even say a girl is cute anymore, or she'll report you. You could've done it fifteen years ago and accidentally touch her leg and she could sue you now. Crazy."

I heard every word he said with a heightened attentiveness, but didn't say anything.

He went on. "You have to be careful -- you can't even look at a woman anymore without being accused of something. It's crazy."

He laughed, but I didn't think it was funny.

"You know, many of these women coming out today were sexually harassed and assaulted," I said.

That unsettled him. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

I went on. "This is pretty serious, the way too many women are still treated today. I have two daughters and I can't imagine them having to deal with this kind of crap when they're older, but unfortunately they most likely will and we'll want them to speak up and not take it."

"Yeah, you're right. I know," he said. He nodded as he drove, but I could tell he was still uncomfortable.

We both got quiet then. I felt better that I had spoken up, but it certainly wasn't anything heroic. I could only think of every time in my life when I heard another man say something derogatory about another women because they refused his advances, that women are too sensitive and misunderstand too easily, that in the case of harassment and assault it was the woman's fault and that we live in a too politically correct world where men are blamed for it all when the wind blows the wrong way. That for every woman who cries rape there's another who falsely accuses.

But I knew that was all bullshit, even when there are those who do falsely accuse. The fact is that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives, and 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 (according to statistics from NO MORE, an nonprofit organization that unites and strengthens a diverse, global community to help end domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse).

My driver's cell phone rang. "Hello. Yes, yes, we just left there. She needs a ride? Okay, we'll circle back." He hung up and added to me, "We've got another person needing to get a rental car, so if it's okay we'll head back there and get her."

"Sure," I said.

"It's probably that woman we saw park the truck," he said.


And sure enough it was. She got in the back seat, and after some friendly banter between the three of us, the car got quiet except for the radio playing. Tom Petty pleaded with us to break down.

"Break down, go ahead and give it to me
Break down, honey take me through the night
Break down now I standin' here can't you see
Break down, it's all right
It's all right
It's all right..."

I loved that old rock song, but in this moment it wasn't "all right" and the context felt awkward, as if I was the one who had done something inappropriate and felt it fill the car like warm, stinky air. Our other passenger had no idea of what had been discussed just moments earlier between the driver and myself. I wanted to blurt out how I'm all about treating each other better, about treating women with respect as equals, about how I made my own mistakes over the years and how life lessons are only as good as what you do with the learning, about how I grew up with abusive patriarchy and domestic violence and sexual assault and that's why I'm on the city Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and involved in Kidpower and why I along with many others want to change the culture of victim and perpetrator and protective self-defense to my Christmas wish of awareness and prevention and a willingness to change, of ending the perpetual battle between unforgiving modern feminism and the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy (thank you, bell hooks).

All in one breath. And then I thought better of it, because they both would've thought me crazy, and I'm sure they were already both good people deep down, even with the driver's commentary.

Instead, we got to the rental car place and then went on our separate ways. I was glad I had spoken up, though, and told my wife the same later that day.

"Good for you, Sweetie. Did you tell him you're on the city commission?" she asked.

"No, I didn't. But I thought about it."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Our Gig Economy Kids

We're in in the business of no.

"No, you can't fill the sink and wash your horse."

"No, you can't slide down the stairs on your butt."

"No, you can't pretend the guinea pigs are your puppets."

"Oh, and please remember to shut the freezer all the way after you've opened it."

"We do shut it!"

"No, you don't."


So many no's nearly everything single day, that if they weren't kids with still-developing frontal lobes and personal awareness and impulse control, they'd probably be posting bad reviews on the parenting-as-business equivalents to Glassdoorkununu and Indeed. If you're not familiar with these online platforms, they're employer job sites and review sites where job candidates and employees can post anonymous reviews about their job search and employment experiences with any particular company. Candidate experience is real for both kids and adults and can be positive and negative.

So, like talent acquisition professionals everyday, we as parents are in the business of no. Except that we're not saying no to 99 out of 100 different people who are applying for our jobs, we're saying no 99 out of 100 times to our children who are doing questionable things and who aren't doing the jobs we want them to do.

Over and over and over again.

It comes with the parenting territory. They are the raw talent and we're doing everything we can to teach them well and skill them up. To the point that one day they'll take what we've taught them -- combined with what they've gleaned from peers, teachers and even other bosses once they start working for reals -- they'll take all that and apply it to their future world of work. Maybe even apply their maturing #BhivePower as we like to call it, their aspiring gumption, and become entrepreneurial to make their own way for themselves as well as many others who may work for them someday.

"No, you can't dump any more of your tiny Shopkin toys onto the floor, but you can start picking the ones that are out and everything else on the floor. Please. Now. Thank you."


"Yes, right now."

"It's so unfair."

"Pick up your toys."


"And please remember to close the freezer after you've opened it."

"We do close it!"

"You do not -- not all the way."

"We do too!"


It comes with the kid territory. To want to play, play, play and then not put anything away (or shut freezer doors all the way). But once they're old enough to start listening and taking care of business, no matter how much they fight it, then it's a win. And then you have independent contractors under your roof that aren't subject to federal, state or local employment laws. Contractors with benefits who benefit us.

No, we don't have them making t-shirts for sale out the of garage, so no need to report us. But we do want to instill a sense of responsibility that comes with some tangible rewards, like the money to buy the tiny toys they love to dump out onto the floor and play with.

At first it was the one-off's, the "please help me clean off the counter and you can earn a dollar to buy that thing you want." We've done that for the past couple of years and then the Mama (what I affectionately call my wife) more recently developed a chore chart and we've graduated the girls to an allowance. It's a weekly paycheck of sorts that they can make up to $X -- but only if they complete their chores. Otherwise, their allowance will be commensurate with what they actually do, something that's definitely non-negotiable in our little world of work.

Is it the most effective and efficient application of chore doing getting done? Of course not. Have you seen our daughters clean the kitchen counters off with a cleaning wipe? Tiny concentric circles that swipe quickly across the counters, only moving bacteria from one concentric circle to another.

Life hacks gotta start somewhere, though. And at some point we definitely need to depend on our children to help get us keep the house in order and get the stuff done that needs doing, week after week, day after day. It should serve them well into young adulthood, and at least for now it's working. Mostly with our oldest, Beatrice, although Bryce will come along (if she wants the money).

It comes with the parenting territory. They are our gig economy kids and we're doing everything we can to teach them well and skill them up with enough (mostly) positive life experiences that will offset their eventual personal upsets and downsizes.

Later, after they've gone to bed, I say:

"The girls still aren't shutting the freezer all the way, and every time the temperature just climbs and climbs, and I'm the one who has to shut it tight."

Pause. The Mama shrugs.

"Honey, relax about the freezer door. It's not the end of the world. I try to make sure it's shut."

Pause. I shake my head.

"No, I'm the one who shuts it all the time."

Pause. The Mama shrugs.

"Hey, at least they wipe their own butts now."

Pause. I nod.

"Sure, but they don't flush all the time."

Pause. The Mama shrugs. 

"So, you'll make sure they close the freezer tight?"

The Mama walks away.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Real Friends Transcendent

"Oh, if I could hear myself when I say
Oh, love is bigger than anything in it's way..."

It was like every teen friendship movie we've ever seen, except played out in grade school. The part where mutual friend X stops hanging out with group Y and starts hanging out more with group Z, based on whatever reasons friend X has.

Such is the circle of the modern free-society life. And that's fine, because the Mama (what I affectionately call my wife) and I have been through it; many of us have. But we also don't want our girls to sacrifice one friendship for another, especially during these preteen years when overlapping relationships can sour and lines are drawn, and all regardless of what we think as the parents and who they should be friends with (as long as it's not destructive relationship). Where the peer pressure overwhelms many of us and forces us to choose -- or unfortunately we're selected out by the very friends we thought we had and the groups we thought we belonged to -- or we self-select altogether. 

In this case, friend X is Beatrice, our oldest, who like me her father has an empathic heart and friendly disposition that makes her accessible to girls and boys of many backgrounds. Again, it's easier as a kid to have multiple friendships, learning to trust and respect others based on shared likes versus dividing each other based on gender, race or varied interests and beliefs. It's bad enough how some men end up treating women later in life (i.e., devaluing them, harassing them, bullying each other, assaulting them, etc.), as well as how women end up treating women (and/or all of the above). It becomes a complex destructive mess leaving painful scars and potentially years of therapy in its wake depending on the severity. (Read this article and this article for painful reminders of our adult realities.)

So friend X is Beatrice and let's call group Y the puppy club and group Z the kitten club (the names aren't really the important part, although it is important to note that they were clubs they formed and they're all girls except for one boy in the puppy club). Beatrice played everyday during recess and lunch with her friends in the puppy club, and then one day the kitten club was formed, but not everyone from the puppy club was invited to join the kitten club. Not for any particular articulated reason except for just because that's who they wanted.

Beatrice loved playing in both clubs, but started spending more time with the kitten club. Then the puppy club's feelings were hurt.

Sound familiar?

That's when the puppy club wrote Beatrice a note. A very heartwarming note saying they missed her and wanted her to play again in their club, but not at the expense of the other club. They didn't ask her to be exclusive, just to play with them again sometimes.

So we encouraged Beatrice to think about it and respond to the puppy club, thoughtfully. And that's what she did. She told them she missed them as well and wanted to play, but that she also wanted to play with the kitten club. 

The puppy club recommended having a movie night to rekindle their friendship. And that's just what they did. Plus, no puppies or kittens were harmed in the making of this reconciliation and the playing continues. They don't all agree all the time on what they want to do and talk about. Their friendship transcends the differences and these are important life lessons to learn. We're also so proud that Beatrice received an empathy award from school recently.

That's why it's always a good reminder to review some powerful Kidpower lessons, ones that are all about better communication with those important to us. Here are three keys ones from a list of five:

1. Think Before You Speak

Staying mindful about what you say and do can prevent a host of communication problems. If you are feeling so upset that you lash out at someone in a disrespectful way, this can cause damage to the relationship – in the same way that a rock will cause damage if it is thrown through a window. A clean apology with no explanations or justifications will often repair the damage – but it causes less stress and hurt for everyone if you can avoid the damage in the first place.

2. Respect the Other Person’s Point of View

People are different, and seeing things differently is normal. Communicating respect for another person’s point of view does not mean that you are agreeing with it.  For example, you might say, “I really respect your point of view, but this is an area where we are going to need to agree to disagree, because I believe differently than you do.” When people feel that you respect their perspectives and feelings, they are more likely to treat your feelings and perspective with respect.

3. Keep Your Heart Connection

When you are important to someone, you have a lot of power and need to use that power wisely. This means that, no matter how much someone’s behavior has frustrated or upset you, you need to separate the behavior from your caring and compassion. None of us are perfect, and all of us make mistakes of different kinds.

Yes, for now their friendship transcends the differences and hopefully will continue to do so. But as the puppy and kitten clubs turn into dogs and cats, transcending the differences gets a lot harder. Our views changes, our beliefs change, our lives change and our friends change, too. Sometimes we just can't come back from friendship setbacks, no matter the reasons. 

However, for some of us, there are those friends we hold onto for life. I can only hope that our girls hold onto some of their friends today and tomorrow as we have done. Where some of our best friends are the real friends transcendent.