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, November 25, 2018

The Friend in Family

She asked me to dump the turkey carcass into the green can. The clippings can. The one for grass, weeds, branches, etc.

“Are you serious?” I said.

She smiled and said, “Yes, why?”

“Why would you put the turkey into the clippings can?”

“Because it’s organic; I do it every year.”

I thought about it for a minute. I didn’t think that was right and would swear that if the trash collectors caught it, they’d tag her can. A tag that read something like This is a notice of non-collection because your can is contaminated. 

“You all right? You need me to walk you through it?” she said.

Now she was just being a smart ass and trying to be funny.

“No, I’ll go do it.”

And I did. I dumped the carcass out of the plastic bag it was in and on top of the branches and grass before. I stared down into the can and thought, There’s no friggin’ way they’re taking this.

“They’re going to tag your can,” I said when I came back in the house.

“No, they are not. I told you I do it every year. You going to be okay?” Again, my sister shared her cute snark. She leaned in to give me a fake supportive hug and I moved away.

“Ha. I’m good, they’re just not going to take it,” I said, smiling.

“Yes, they will. It’s just turkey bones. You can put those down your garbage disposal.”

I laughed. God, you really sound like Dad, I thought. That would break the garbage disposal.

A while later, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife), looked it up online and sure enough, you don’t put turkey carcasses into your clippings can. Even my sister’s son, my nephew back from his second year in law school, agreed.

“So,” my sister said to me, “go dig it out then.”

“I ain’t digging anything out,” I said.

We laughed. It was funny. And I still thought her can was going to get tagged.

A day later we packed up our things and headed home. It was another very nice Thanksgiving with my sister and her grown children. We also got to visit with my newborn Great Niece, my niece’s baby girl, and she was such a delight. The newest member of our extended family, today.

We’ve been going to my sister’s for Thanksgiving the past five years now, starting the year after both our parents passed away. It’s very important to my sister and I and our families, even if we only see each a few times per year. Since we were children and for most of our lives, we've been very close.

The year our parents died was a rough year for us all, my mom leaving us four months after my dad due to a health complication we knew nothing about until it was too late. And then there was the in-between time before she passed that went okay until it didn’t when my mom stayed with my sister, before we had taken her in and then I returned her back to Oregon. And then there was the six years before that when my sister and I didn’t speak at all. Plus, the way before then of violence and abuse, and the since then of other extended family relationship ups and downs.

Both the Mama and I have the loving memories of big family gatherings during the end-of-year holidays and multiple times throughout the year (even daily when we lived near each other). But then, family fell away and moved away, new family was added and old family taken away. Maybe we see each other a few times per year, if that. (The women in my life have always done a much better job at keeping in touch with extended family than I have.)

Trust and empathy are vital to nurturing any relationship, as well as the reciprocal investment of communication and time. And yet over time, life happens, we fail each other, and even the seemingly best intentions can and do tear at the fine family fabric. We’re hurt. We resent. We retaliate. We cut off. The friend in family is lost. Sometimes forever.

The Mama and I have been listening to Dr. BrenĂ© Brown of late, a research professor who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. In Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice, BrenĂ© Brown shared a conversation about forgiveness she had with a rabbi. She’d been doing research about forgiveness, and the rabbi told her that true forgiveness can only transpire when something else dies. Not literally a person or thing, but a manifestation of something, letting go of resentment for example. Literally letting it die.

This is the first year in my grateful long life to date that I've accepted I can no longer hold onto any resentment for being hurt. That I can no longer beat myself up for my own past transgressions, or that I can keep judging others because I don’t feel they’re being their best selves (because maybe they are), or because there are those who I don’t see eye to eye with (because sometimes we don’t). I just can’t do it anymore. I've really needed to let those things die. It doesn’t serve a work-in-progress healthy heart and spirit at all, and it doesn’t help me to be a better parent or husband or human. There are so many more benefits to channeling my energy into me being my better self and sharing that with others. God knows it's taken long enough to get here.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries on how I handle any relationship going forward post whatever traumatic event, and what I want our children to understand about betrayal, heartbreak, personal responsibility and forgiveness. Forgiveness is a feral animal, one that is unpredictable and not easy to tame, even when you feel like it’s ready to give itself up to you, and for you. And forgiveness doesn’t mean that all what ailed a relationship makes the relationship whole again. It just means all what ailed it is finally dead.

Trust and empathy take time to build and rebuild, and a lot of continuous reciprocity to sustain, but without forgiveness, there can be no friend in family.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

It Always Burns a Hole

"Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals
Big money make a mighty head
Big money spin big wheels..."

–Rush, Big Money

Because it always burns a hole in their pockets. The moolah. The cheddar. The dough. The cash so hot its molten gravity opens up the earth and speeds toward the glowing core to super-ignite and annihilate the universe.

Or, more accurately, it wants to head to a nearby store. For new toys or treats and other random crap. The girls have been earning their own money, kind of, off and on for the past year, maybe more. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) helped them identify something to do -- fold the clothes, unload the dishwasher, wipe off the counters, feed the bunny, unpack their backpacks, etc. I bring the air support, kind of, reminding them to do their tasks if they want to earn the designated amount of money.

The money that burns a hole in their pockets. But we have to start somewhere.

For me, it all started as a child around eight years old with a $0.25 weekly allowance. That's one quarter per week for my sister and I helping our mom around the house. Yes, it was a long, long time ago, and we did grow up with very little extra money -- just enough to barely make ends meet. But, our mom did want to instill in us a sense of responsibility and reward. And after a few weeks, that amount of money went a lot farther back then at drugstores (five and dimes) like Thrifty's and Woolworth's.

Wow, do any of these kids today even know what five and dime means? I know, right? Probably not. Our kids certainly don't. However, they do know the dollar stores, and that's a place where a dollar can still go a long, long way.

Then, with our crazy and abusive first step-dad, my sister and I got a dollar per week allowance -- but, we'd get demerits, money subtracted from our allowance if we did something wrong and/or didn't complete our chores around the house. My poor sister got the brunt of this punitive approach, sometimes ending up with a deficit that ate away at future allowances.

I'm lifetimes away from those days now, and the Mama and I haven't and won't take that approach. We're fortunate to have a little extra cash to spend on our kids than either of us had as children. And that's why we want them to learn the value of earning their own money that they can spend on whatever they want. Within reason.

Which is why the Mama brought home an idea from a friend about "saving, giving and spending" money. This means that we'll have them save a portion of their allowance, give away a portion of their allowance to help others, and to then spend a portion of their allowance -- the part they're most excited about, of course. We've been talking about establishing a more regular allowance for both girls based on completing weekly tasks, at least one to two tasks each per week (I want two, but the Mama says let's get them consistent on one first). And then they could earn extra if they did even more, beyond the allowance task/s and the everyday things they have to do anyway, something the Mama and I didn't exactly agree on (another story for another time), but have worked through.

Now each week they'll get six dollars each week (I know, right?) for allowance for completing their tasks/chores/whatever you want to call them. And each week they have to put at least $1 in each of the "save" and "give" envelopes we've designated for them, and then the balance can go into the "spend" envelope, which they can use at the dollar store, or for bigger ticket items when we go to Disneyland over Christmas.

It's funny, because our oldest, Beatrice, just watched a commercial about Universal Studios and celebrating the holidays at Harry Potter World. I said we'd go there someday, even if she didn't care for Harry Potter (I know, right?).

"But I do want to go," she said. "Let's go there."

"No, we'll go there someday," I said. "But we're going to Disneyland again this year. It costs a lot of money to go to these parks. Guess how much it costs just for our Disneyland tickets."

"Um...a million dollars," Beatrice said, amused with herself.

"No, not quite. Try again."

"Twenty-thousand dollars."


"Twelve thousand dollars."

"Nope. Not that much. Goodness, we wouldn't even go once for that much."

"I don't know then."

"One thousand and five hundred dollars for all four tickets. So you better start saving."

"I'm already saving for the girl Stitch stuffed animal at Disneyland. You have to pay for the rest."

Of course we do. I know, right?

Because it always burns a hole in our pockets. A really big friggin' hole. And we're grateful we can afford the hole. For now, at least. Which is why we also do our best to practice what we preach, with the saving and the giving, especially coming back from the brink of oblivion during the great recession, still not so long ago, like so many others have done.

Yes, it always burns a hole, this fragility of finance, and yet the economy is humming again. For now, at least. Teaching our children financial responsibility is serious business.

"Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul..."

Sunday, November 11, 2018

All in at 11

Driving behind the FedEx truck, I pushed and pulled inside the moment, but stayed inside it. I knew I had to make it to Best Buy within 10 minutes, grinding bumper to bumper on Highway 1 -- stop start, stop start -- brake lights glaring red. The Mama, what I lovingly call my wife, told me I wouldn't make it there and back in time to pick up Beatrice after band, but I told her I was sure of it. 

And so I stayed in the moment driving, leveraging the meditation we've been doing, not getting stressed out or worried, knowing that I would make it. I stayed in the moment, but explored the boundaries of it, letting my daydreams fill it with a big volume of recent change. 

Turning up the volume, actually. I think I'd used that expression with other parents dozens of times since this school year began for our daughters. Probably dozens of times in single conversations, with the same parents concurring. Like turning the amp volume up to 11 for those familiar with the comedy This Is Spinal Tap -- going above and beyond what's expected, when you didn't really believe that level existed, or want to believe it existed.

Dear God, now we know it does. 

And it's all stuff we've all signed up for and that both girls have wanted to do -- soccer, theater class, school band -- and more to come. That's not including all the stuff we're doing as the parents as well, in the context of school involvement, community involvement and ever-expanding work (which I so thankful we have). From the first day of school in August the volume has been cranked to 11 for friggin' sure. 

This isn't a pat on the back moment, though. Every day I reach trembling for the volume knob to turn it down. I stop short, hand shaking a little while hovering over it, and then take a deep breath and pull it back. 

I can't turn it down, though; we're all in. We don't get it all right, but we're all in. We knew that from the moment we decided to have Beatrice. We knew it even before that, but it was having children that solidified it.

Five minutes out from Best Buy, the ever-expanding moment moved on to how our girls are growing up. The years of Daddy taking family pictures unchecked were finally recently checked. And it was because of one goofy picture I took of Beatrice with Bryce. She said she didn't want me to post pictures like that anymore and set a boundary that I check with her from now on before I post any pictures of her. Then her younger sister Bryce echoed this request while out with me and the Mama and Beatrice was at an overnight birthday slumber part with friends. 

Bryce wanted a girls' night out with Mama and decided Daddy could go, too. We went out to eat and I asked her:

"Bryce, can I take a picture of us for girls' night?"





She was never as into the pictures as much as her older sister was, but now they just keep growing up, faster and faster and faster, with moments that get louder and louder and louder...

My ever-expansive bubble moment held with resilient elasticity and I made it with two minutes to spare in picking up Beatrice after band practice. As we drove home, I asked her about her day. Her voice, already full of pre-tween inflection, bounced off her own inner walls and my eardrums. I may be taking fewer literal pictures of them both from now on, but we're all in at 11 now, and the volume of moments like these will forever ring in our eyes and ears.

Rock on, #BhivePower.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

This Was All Them

"Celebrate the moment
As it turns into one more
Another chance at victory
Another chance to score..."

–Rush, One Little Victory

She was prescient. Simple as that. Conversely, I had no expectations at all about the day. I only counted how many games and practices were left and knew the magic number was two.


Even after stating last time I didn't know if either of our girls will play soccer again next year, or if I'll coach again, but we're all going to finish out this year strong as a team, tears and all. Winning is great, the competitive side of me knows that all too painfully well. But in the end, it is how you play the game. Not how it plays you. 

How true, and maybe I had a little prescience, too.

One the way to our second-to-the-last game, I asked Bryce if she was excited about playing.

"Yes," she said. "I am."

"Great," I said, again without expectation or biased agenda. I knew the girls were getting tired of being pummeled every single game. So was I.

We drove on, and then Bryce said:

"Daddy, I'm going to score a goal today."

I couldn't help but smile. "You think so?"

"Yes, I am."

"Awesome. Let's go have some fun today."

"I think we're all going do well today," she added.

I smiled again. "Okay then. Let's do it."

As we warmed up on the field, the other team's coach said they were down their bigger and older players, but would have enough to play at least 7 on the field. I told her that would work, that I wasn't sure how many I'd have show up, but we could play 7 as well. I did log in the fact that their "bigger and older players" weren't there – which to me that translated into more experience players than ours.

That seemed to follow the skewed trend for most of the teams we had played this year – bigger, older and a little more experience. Not all of them, but most of them. And it wasn't just me and my coaches who noticed, the team parents had noticed as well.

But I've also had to grapple with the bias inherent in losing with an inexperienced team. Plus, being a father of one on the team meant I always had more on the line. I signed up for this for four years, though. I was in it to stretch and grow, as well as trying to impart a growth mindset to our teams.

Then the game started and something was different. The girls played better. They ran harder, went to the ball instead of waiting for it, controlled the ball, passed the ball – and they scored. A lot. After being pummeled all season, we actually won this game. Six goals to the other team's two. And one of those was Bryce's goal. She made it happen. They all made it happen. We subbed players in and out and coached them along the way, but this, this was all them.

And they knew it. They felt it. They lived it. They loved it. They celebrated every moment of it in every moment of it. That's the stuff we want them to encase in their still-growing hearts, the making it happen and making it their own, to access this confidence as needed throughout their lives.

Because they will need it; we all need it. For right now though, we celebrate the moment. Amen.