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, July 28, 2019

Curse-Funding Our Next Vacation

Maybe you've heard it before: intelligent people swear more, stay up late, leave work at their desks and are messier overall. Various bits of research loosely woven together from random ends of the world wide interwebs seem to circulate like this on Facebook every month.

For example, with the cursing -- people who could name the most swear words within a minute also tend to score higher on an IQ test. The study concludes that a rich vocabulary of swear words is a sign of rhetorical strength rather than the attempt to hide verbal deficits.

Then I must be a friggin' genius. On the swearing at least. The staying up late? Nope, not even close. We're in bed by 9:00-9:30 PM every friggin' night. However, my wife and I leave our work at all our desks (in my office, in the house, etc.), but the messiness varies by age in our house -- our two girls are kids, so they're usually the messier ones, leaving out toys everywhere all the time that we're constantly nagging them to pick up their friggin' toys. And that we're constantly picking up for them.

Good friggin' God. The swearing. When we were on family vacation this year, there were too many times when my wife and I cursed away for whatever reason, usually out of momentary frustration with each other, the kids, or vacation circumstance around us (like not being able to find our car in one of the Walt Disney World parking lot), and both our girls called us out on them every single time.

"Daddy, you said the f-word," said Bryce.

"No I didn't -- I said friggin'," I would counter.

"Dad, that's the same thing," said Beatrice.

"No, it's not."

"Yes, it is!"

But now the cursing is going to make us pay if our girls have anything to do with it. Bryce had already created a curse jar awhile ago, so when either of us swears, we have to put money in the jar. Maybe you have one at your house. At first it was just fifty cents here and there, but now, Bryce has created a new "fine" chart based on the swear words used.

For example:

  • The F-word (including the softer friggin' versions) will cost us $5.
  • The S-word will cost us $2.
  • The D-word will cost us $2.
  • The H-word will cost us $1.

They wanted the F-word to cost us $10, but we talked them down (thank friggin' God). We also convinced them that "crap" doesn't count, that "dang" doesn't count and that "heck" doesn't count. But friggin' will cost us, and I use that one a lot.

So, whether or not swearing makes us more intelligent, I don't friggin' know, but I do know that maybe we'll be starting a new savings account. In fact, like crowdfunding, we could be curse-funding our next vacation.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Collective of Little Differences

The waters came with paper straws.

"Nice touch," I said to the waiter.

"I know," he said, smiling.

I drank two glasses of ice water with the one paper straw and it didn't disintegrate or make my water taste like newspaper. This experience was at the tail end of our family vacation in the airport in Orlando.

It's hard enough trying to do our part week to week when we're home, limiting the amount of single-use plastics that now account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year, according to a recent National Geographic article.

That's 40%.

Damn. And 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations that can take hundreds of years to break down. Plus, microplastics are everywhere in our environment -- in our water and the air. Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. And eventually, even us.

So, what about recycling? There is some plastic being recycled, right? U.S. recycling rates of PET plastic bottles have historically been sluggish. In 2017 just 29.2 percent of PET bottles were actually recycled compared to the global average of 56 percent, according to the National Association of PET Container Resources. At least more large businesses like PepsiCo, Coca Cola and Walmart are setting bigger longer term goals of using more recycled plastic in their products. But we've got a lot more recycling of plastic to do to get there.

Today, there seems to be this backlash of "it's not that big of a problem; it's not my problem; nobody tells me what to do; I do whatever I want" mentality. It's absurd to us actually, the fact that we're metaphorically mimicking the movie Anchorman scenes where Ron Burgundy and his news team are walking through a park throwing trash on the ground. It's become such a partisan issue that the Trump campaign is selling plastic red straws to combat the evil liberal agenda of paper ones.


Sure, plastic has made our lives easier and more convenient, especially when you have kids, and especially when you take kids on vacation. But my wife Amy wanted us to try and reduce our single-use plastic footprint on our trip (and everyday actually). So we brought refillable water bottles (some that have their own filters), reusable utensils, reusable storage containers for food, and metal straws -- all of which Amy just cleaned at the end of the day for the next day.

Nearly every place we went to eat and/or get a snack that wanted to give us single-use plastics -- lids and straws and such -- we politely declined every chance we got. We explained to both our girls what we were trying to do and why we were doing it. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando also offered paper straws as alternatives, which was a nice surprise, plus recycling for bottles and cans. Of course we couldn't get away with not ever using some single-use plastics, but we did the best we could.

In the end, it's not really a lot of work. A collective of little differences like this can go a long way in keeping our planet healthy.

Monday, July 15, 2019

They Do Last Longer

We saw the lions. It was our second time on the safari, this time at dusk, and we were excited to see other nocturnal animals that were hiding to sleep the day away during our first run. There were three lions laying down high up on a flat rock. Prior to seeing them, we heard them growling and roaring and the tour guide was hopeful we'd see them.

There were two females and a male laying there on the rock as we rounded the corner. Such majestic creatures; we were so grateful to see them. I took a few pictures, knowing that the distance would mean grainier resolution zooming in.

It was only a couple of minutes, and as they started to move out of view, one of the females got up and grazed the male's face with her body, laid back down, and then the male mounted her.

It's natural. It happens. Even on a Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom safari with your family. And all the other families on the safari with you.

All the adults who witnessed it laughed awkwardly. All the kids asked what happened.

Once we were off the safari truck, our oldest daughter Beatrice asked, "What were they doing?"

My wife Amy answered, "They were mating."

"Ewwwww," Beatrice said shaking.

"What?" our youngest Bryce said.

"They were mating."

"Hey baby, you got a hot body!" Bryce said and then laughed.

What the hell? Where did that come from? These kids today.

It was funny, though. Bryce is a riot and Beatrice is growing up so fast; we're so grateful to be able to take them both on another fun family vacation adventure. One where we make memories together and share new and unique experiences. Where we unplug, at least somewhat. Even if I'm mostly checked out of work, which took a couple of days deep into vacation to get there, I'm still sharing and posting the vacation pics on Instagram and Facebook, because that's how I roll. And the girls still have some device time to themselves in between the adventuring.

During our adventuring, for the most part, we're all present and paying attention and our mindfulness accounted for. And while on vacation, early this morning, I ready a little piece in the New York Times about paying attention and noticing your surroundings, without over-analyzing. Just seeing and experiencing. All the sights and sounds and people and animals and things around us. This is where our connectivity comes from, where new ideas come from, where inspiration comes from.

I may take a lot of pictures of it all and share it all electronically, but the experiences are real. Including the experience of forgetting where you parked your rental car in one of the Walt Disney World parking lots. Of walking around hot and tired looking for our car, dragging our kids behind us, and not having a clue of where we parked. And out of hundreds of pictures I've taken so far on our family vacation, we neglected to take one of our parking spot number. We knew the general vicinity, just not the exact number. I thought of the quip you might here when staring at someone for too long, "take a picture, it lasts longer," and the irony of the quip and not paying attention here wasn't lost on me.

After walking around for nearly 30 minutes looking for our car, Amy had gone and found a parking attendant who said about the time we parked that morning, we would've been in section 301. I was looking in section 330, with the girls whining behind me. If Amy hadn't done that, I would've been walking around all night.

Yes, indeed. The pictures and the experiences, they do last longer, so take a moment and pay attention.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Let It Rest

"I'm alright
Nobody worry 'bout me
Why you got to gimme a fight?
Can't you just let it be?"

–Kenny Loggins, I'm Alright

It stopped working for no reason. We'd been driving over three hours to my sister's house and listening to Songs of America: Patriotism, protest, and the music that made a nation, an inspiring new book collaboration from Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw, when the Apple CarPlay software connection stopped working. I swapped out my phone for my wife's, but neither one worked. So odd because it had never happened before. I realized that software can hiccup and yet was still immediately obsessed with why the heck it stopped working.

I unplugged and plugged in our phones multiple times, but nothing.

"Let it rest," my wife Amy said.

"Let it rest?" I said.

"Yes, let it rest."

"That's not a thing."

"Sure it is. Things get tired and need to rest."

"Nope, not a thing."

So I fiddled with it for a few more minutes and then gave up. We visited with my sister and then went to my high school reunion, and on the next day we went out to lunch. The CarPlay connection worked again as if it had never stopped.

"See, I told you," Amy said.

"Damn, what the heck?" I said. "It's still not a thing."

"Yes, it is."

We laughed. After fun weekend of reunion and family time with my sister, niece and great niece, we returned home to find that the gophers had returned to our backyard. In the 13 years we've lived in our house, I can recall only one or two times when we've had gophers in our backyard.

A few months ago I wouldn't have stressed on it as much since we'd let our backyard go. The reason being that our pet rabbit Dragonlily, only a little over a year old, had free reign in our backyard and ate everything in sight. But at the end of April we upgraded our yard with new sod, flagstone and a rabbit run (so our bunny wouldn't eat everything in sight).

We did it all ourselves and we were super proud of it, just like we did when we first moved in all those years ago. And then the gophers came back. With a vengeance. Freshly pushed up dirt piles along the edge of our new flagstone and along the new grass. Plus, we had notice some strange yellow spots on the lawn over the past month and now wondered if it was them -- the friggin' gophers -- digging under the new sod. I tried to flood them out, but that didn't work.

"The gopher can be a friend to bun-bun," Amy said, referring to our rabbit Dragonlily, after I came in cursing about the latest mounds of freshly dug-up dirt.

"No gopher friends," I said.

"C'mon, Sweetie. It'll be fine. A little gopher or two aren't hurting anyone."

"But it's not fine and it's hurting me; you know how much work went into the yard. Should I just let this rest, Sweetie? Maybe it'll just fix itself?"

I tried to say it with a frustrated wink and smile, and she gave me a pass thankfully. She knows how I get and is always much better at letting go than me. Even our rabbit was trying to tell me to chill out, eating one of our flowers when he had a few minutes out of his run, two feet from a fresh gopher hole.

But to no avail; I headed for the local ACE hardware store and asked one of the guys that worked there what humane gopher/mole traps they had. "None that work," he told me. Then I asked for the gopher/mole gas, which looked like little sticks of dynamite with a short fuse. Really.

I wanted this gopher or gophers gone before we left on our family vacation. I lit one little stick of dynamite gas and push it into a hole and covered it with dirt. It was super stinky, too. I did two of these in two different gopher holes, and of course while doing this, I couldn't help remember the scenes in the classic comedy Caddyshack, with Bill Murray trying to blow up the gopher. And the gopher always got away, even after the golf course was completely destroyed.

On the morning we left for our family vacation, I went out to the still dark backyard and noticed a freshly dug out mound of gopher dirt in between two pieces of lovely new flagstone.

I audibly sighed and shook my head.

Nothing to do but let it rest. They can have it all (for now).

I'm alright. I can just let it be.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Healing Hallelujah

"It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah..."

–Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

I got a 6 as my ACE score. Answering yes to questions like:

Prior to your 18th birthday...

Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

Were your parents ever separated or divorced?

Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?   

These questions are from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later-life health and well-being.

Eight-seven percent of those in the original study had more than one ACE. And according to the research, with an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent. 

The research is clear, but that this doesn't mean those with multiple ACEs will suffer chronic illness later in life; there are many factors involved and some people are more resilient than others, especially when they have supportive and loving relationships post-trauma. And those who get early intervention and primary prevention services.

In Tulare County, where I grew up, 43% had 1-3 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which again can include witnessing violence at home and/or experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as a child; and/or household substance use, mental illness, or incarceration. And 16% had 4 or more.

In Santa Cruz County, where we now live, nearly a quarter of adults (24.9%) had four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

But it was the visceral memories of growing up with some of these ACEs that triggered me and brought me back to the fear and the pain. We were at the 30-year celebration of Kidpower conference, a global nonprofit organization that's trained nearly six million children, adults, educators and peace officers on safety skills when dealing with sexual abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, domestic violence, and more.

I volunteer as a padded instructor, helping to teach others empowering self-defense skills when all other safety options are exhausted. God forbid we'll ever need them, but unfortunately too many do every day. My wife works for Kidpower and so we made it a family affair with our two girls and a group of over 100 amazing individuals working hard to keep children, teens and adults safe, empathic and respectful to one another.

After learning more about ACEs during the conference (and getting triggered), then some of us watched The Mask You Live In, which follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it, especially if you have children, boys or girls.

This was the second time I've seen the movie and it triggered me further. I was compelled to go find our two girls who were being chaperoned by wonderful volunteers along with all the other children attending with their families, doing fun kid things while the rest of us attended the conference.

I just wanted to see them, to tell them I loved them. They were happy to see me, but also engrossed in their kid activities, making address books so they could all contact each other, their new found friends. Healthy kids doing fun, healthy things. Amen.

Then I went for a walk on the beach, listening to music to clear my head. The Leonard Cohen song came on, Hallelujah, but even more poignant version (for me) sung by Jeff Buckley. I gazed out over the Pacific Ocean as the line "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah..." echoed in my head.

I am here. I am alive. I am loved and supported. I love and support others. I can help make a difference. It's a warm and it's a healing Hallelujah.

All forms of violence are preventable. Early intervention programs for children and teens can help. We can all help. Support your local service providers that provide primary prevention. Be an advocate for those who need support and safety.