Fifteen Minutes to Holiday Party Infamy


We received our first official Holiday Party invite late last night. This moment is always a huge relief, since I’ve given any number of perfectly legitimate reasons to party hosts not to extend me such invitations throughout the past year. And every year, for that matter. 

I imagine these smiling hosts quickly scrolling down through past guest lists, freezing on my email address printed right there and getting caught on it like a hand knit holiday sweater catching a shard of errant fingernail. “Hon, do we really want to invite that jackass to our party again this year?” Hon sighs aloud, but ultimately gives in to his or her sense of holiday empathy, and my email address squeaks its way on to the “to” list. 

Phew. 

So, in light of the fact that I am painfully aware of this kitchen table dynamic playing out across a half-dozen Bay Area households this time of year, one would think I would have learned my lesson by now. If one thought that, I think that thought makes a lot of sense. Really, I do. Alas, I am me. And me’s gonna me. Hon sighs again. 

The most virtuous holiday party invite must be of the digital variety. Saves trees and thereby the planet, too. Demonstrates technological savvy. Allows one (could even be the same “one” from earlier) to scratch a graphic design itch. And very easy for the invite’s recipient to integrate the invited-to event onto the invitee’s digital life. Forwarding said invite to his or her spouse, for example. And adding the party to his or her digital calendar with the flick of a finger on iPhone screen. 

But this last intended-to-be-friction-free feature, it turns out, is fraught with danger. 

You see, last night’s Paperless Post populated my iPhone’s calendar as only 15-minute event. A 15 minute party, if you will. 

Sweet Jesus, that’s a lot of pressure. I will need to think carefully through my party strategy. 

Let’s see. I will begin the evening by kicking down the front door at precisely 7pm. Storm straight past my hosts posing for reasonably expected hugs, and beeline it straight for the punch bowl. Skip the formality of ladling into a crystal cup. No time to waste valuable seconds with that sort of time-sucking propriety. The ladle goes straight into my mouth. Then again. And again. By now, other guests and our gracious hosts have taken notice. Making a mental note not to invite me to the next one. Scrub my email address from any digital or analog guest lists of any kind. Immediately, if not sooner. Probably also making a mental note to subtly inquire about the guest list at other parties to which they are invited in the future. So I feign an appropriate level of “I don’t know what got into me” self-consciousness, wipe the nog from my chin on my red sweater’s inner forearm, and stutterstep fiendishly along to the next objective. 

Finger food. The bigger and heavier the better. I completely skip the Crudités. I mean, honestly, who would invest time in Crudités under these circumstances? Let’s face it, Crudités is for suckers. I spin around the passed tray of Crudités and launch headlong for the nutrient-dense stuff. Both to help absorb the Captain Morgan’s sloshing in my belly and to provide me adequate sustenance to survive the inevitable chilly night on the living room couch tonight. 

You see, I saw that familiar look in my wife’s eye as I pushed to the head of the front door queue at 6:55 pm. So I am under no illusions as to where I will be sleeping this evening. It’s me and the hodgepodge of afghans, my ice cold feet sticking out for the long haul. And I’m fine with that. I’m certainly not going to dedicate precious minutes in the here and now in a likely vain attempt to argue my way back into my own bedroom. The waning minutes are better spent fattening myself up with these Swedish meatballs. And now that I’m caught in a vicious cycle — every additional handful tossed into my mouth is roughly equivalent to 1.5 nights spent sleeping on the aforementioned couch with the aforementioned poorly-designed afghans — I just keep shoveling. I’m in survival mode now, people. 

And I’m not above jamming a few fistfuls into jacket pockets and other hiding places. My jacket pockets. My wife’s clutch that she likes to bring to parties like this (maybe her proper party behavior will dilute my antics?). And while she’s distractedly cursing at me and trying to clean out her clutch from my meatballs, I stuff 8 more of those bad boys right into her overcoat’s low-hanging pockets. Note to self: Remember to recover the meatballs within the next 12 to 24 hours or else they will be of no use to me. 

Like I said, I have no idea why I don’t get invited to more Holiday parties.

Thanks for reading. 

A Murder of Cousins


Nope, I haven’t suddenly chosen a new genre. At least not yet. Instead, I’m smitten of late with animal collective nouns. (That there is the sound of dozens of blog post readers rushing for the exit.)

“Murder of cousins” as in “congregation of alligators,” “shrewdness of apes,” and “culture of bacteria.” Oh, and “murder of crows,” lest I let linger the misimpression that I’m advocating parricide. I’m not; I’m just playing with words again. Sort of. Let’s see where this ends up. 

We’ve just returned from a week-long trip to the chilly east coast. Thanksgiving with family. Two of my sons’ male cousins are roughly the same age as my sons. So that means four boys between 10 and 16. Right in the throes of it. The belly of the beast. Basically a 6-day cage match. And unlike the WWF circa George “The Animal” Steele, eye gouging and hair pulling are allowed. Encouraged, in fact. Like the obligatory appetizer on a prix fixe menu. Followed by a plate-filling entree of elbows to the ribs and head butts. 

I was an only child until my sister was born. So I had 14 years during which no one who shared my DNA actively strove to choke me out. More, really, since I’d like to think I couldn’t be sucker-punched by a poopy-diapered infant. This means that, just as I missed an apparently critical day of 5th grade when the mysteries of fractions were revealed, my childhood was completely bereft of family members beating the bejesus out of one another. Whatever the equivalent of tone deaf or color blind is for the (in)ability accurately to perceive and evaluate physical altercations among close-in-age relatives, I suffer from it. 

Whenever I hear the familiar sound of nylon-on-nylon and slaps to bare skin in the car’s back seat, I have to ask my wife whether my boys are genuinely trying to kill eachother, or is this just “normal sibling roughhousing.” I simply can’t distinguish one from the other. Even days after an incident, still uncertain, I try to make sense of things by searching for bruises or bite marks or loose teeth. Clear indicators, I think, of boundaries crossed. One of the few ways I can differentiate a flicked ear lobe from a superhero karate kick to the sternum triggering a somersault down a set of stairs. 

So if I’m dumb to the murderous intentions (or lack thereof) of my own offspring, imagine how woefully inept my judgment when we throw cousins into the mix. “Go on downstairs to play with your cousins, son. That ‘Knee Hockey’ game will either enrich your life as the sweetest of childhood memories, or leave physical and emotional scars that will be addressed on a therapist’s couch 20 years hence. I’ve absolutely no idea which.” 

So down he goes. Followed by the sounds of thumping, crashing and blood curdling screams. For hours on end. These are the noises one would expect from a flange of baboons, an obstinancy of buffalo, or a bloat of hippopotamuses, even. But among blood relatives?

In the end, my sons (and their cousins) appear to have survived the Murder of Cousins, as far as I can tell. Or maybe the bruises just haven’t shown themselves as of yet. I haven’t the slightest idea. 

Thanks for reading. 

I seen the Pegasus!

OK, OK, I get it: No one reads blog posts titled in Latin. No one. Nobody. Nadie. Nemo. I can take a hint. To the nine, count ’em, nine human life forms who managed to overcome the rough title of my last post, a thousand thank yous. Gratias tibi. More like 6 or 7 legit blog readers, in actuality. Presumably WordPress’ analytics counted me as one. And probably a non-human ‘bot or two in the mix. And I really shouldn’t count Svetlana from Czechoslovakia. Pretty sure she is trying to sell me something, or hack my emails, or steal my identity. Well at least ‘Lana has class, man. She reads Latin!

That makes one of us. I didn’t study it. Spanish and French (and English, too, I suppose), but no Latin. In any event, lesson learned: No more Latin. Ever. Numquam did Numquam!

(Somebody please get that last joke there.)

So the unicorn image above is a close up from a photo of President-elect Trump’s meeting yesterday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This one —


I’ll spare you a time-sucking “Where’s Waldo” search. You ain’t got time for that. The gilded unicorn is actually not in the photo at all. At least I don’t think so. But it could be, right? The fact that you probably didn’t dismiss out of hand the plausibility of such a thing, well, that speaks volumes. 

In reality, the gold-dipped equine is a blowup image of Ivanka’s necklace pendant. Look closely….

Got you again, didn’t I? Got myself, truth be told. I just squinted mine own eyes at Ivanka’s porcelain neck. Nope. No Pegasus. No dice. Note to readers: That’s “dice” as in the gambling kind. Not “dice” as in the Latin word for “learn.” See? I’m keeping my promise, like I said, no more Latin. 

I captured the golden unicorn at a recent art dealer event in San Francisco. More accurately I took a photo of it with my iPhone camera. I didn’t actually capture anything.  The piece just kinda struck me. In a Fonzie-Jumping-the-Shark sort of way. Big proviso here, by the way: I am in no way demeaning or maligning the art dealer or the artist. The thing is sort of neat. But it wasn’t enough to just create a plaster horse bust, maybe as social commentary about the usual, arguably grisly wall installations of this genre? We had to put a horn on there? And then while we’re at it, what the hell, let’s paint it gold. The whole thing. Gold. Not just the spiraled horn gold — which, I vaguely recall (and Google confirms), is actually consistent with some fairy tale or other —


Nope. The whole thing gold. The whole sh-bang. Correctomundo. 


It’s a little…much. And yet, we can easily imagine the glittery damned thing in Trump’s living room. Or over Trump’s extravagantly-appointed loo, startling poor Shinzo in a vulnerable moment. Or dangling from Ivanka’s neck. Therefore, if we apply the associative property, this indisputably proves that Trump is…a bit much. 

OK, so maybe it’s the transitive property or the distributive property. I never studied Latin, and whatever branch of mathematics is at play here, well I didn’t study that either. But you don’t need any fancy learning to know the Pegasus when you see it. 

Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday, good people. 

Melancholia et Orthodontia

Times like these, you’ve gotta grab your moments of bliss wherever and whenever you can. For example, take this lovely image above. Clearly something captured at the precise moment of perfect light, after hunching on haunches in the increasingly dewy grass, with high-end camera and proper lens, for hours. The National Geographic adventure photographer sporting obligatory khaki vest and dusty brown boots, training priceless lens on the elusive Serengeti antelope. I suspect there’s no such thing as “Serengeti antelope,” but you get the idea. Just go with it. 

Nah. 

Instead, it’s just me, paused awkwardly in the Prius, trying to avoid swerving into the bumper of a parked car, annoyed commuters honking behind me, illegally and one-handedly fumbling for my iPhone’s camera app while effectively ghost riding up Broderick. Probably late to the bus stop pickup, to boot. And then of course the filters applied at the next stop light around the corner (also illegal). Because God forbid I post something exactly as it is. Who would ever show the world in its authentically imperfect state? Apparently, not I. 

In my defense, I’m a sucker for San Francisco sunsets. And the Palace of Fine Arts is indeed purdy in the evening, sunset or no. Still, it ain’t exactly reality. 

Or is it?

And so, I’ll take it. A much-deserved, albeit arguably inauthentic moment of bliss. In an ongoing mélange of, well, the opposite of bliss. Maybe we should just call that what it is — “reality.”

And “reality” at the moment is melancholia and orthodontia. Or to apply yet another filter so as to portray things a little better-sounding than they actually are: Melancholia et Orthodontia. Insert an erudite-looking crest here. Yeah. Hammered in marble. Yeah yeah. Throw in a few wreaths, maybe an eagle with oversized talons. Uh huh. Perhaps a gargoyle or two. And voilá! I have my very own Trump University! Now accepting applications! Step right up, folks!

But I digress. (Seems that’s pretty much all I do: I digress.)

I’ll be making my 6th or 7th recent trip to the Orthodontist today. Yet another component of one of my kids’ Medieval teeth torture contraptions has shit the bed. Tempting though it may be to reach for my rusty needle nose pliers, this is better left to the professionals. Their needle nose pliers are probably more sterile and hygienic than the ones I used most recently to reconnect the toilet flusher mechanism in the toilet reservoir. Reservoir?

So this morning will feature receptionist phonetag and my inability to honor the busted thingamajig by identifying its proper medical name: “I dunno, gosh, it’s the little tiny piece that sits on top of or sort of in front of the other little things there over there on the side….” And this afternoon I will slide into my usual seat in the waiting room, boning up on whether exactly Brad and Angelina are truly, and finally, forevermore, kaput. 

But maybe somewhere along the way, I’ll capture a moment where everything at least, looks, perfect. 

Thanks for reading. 

Now it’s porcupine quills on Elm Street.

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At this rate, my subconscious will surely run out of unsavory circumstances intended to disrupt my sleep.  Seems I’d only just rung the last drops of “Impossibly Huge Tsunami Dream”seawater from my socks, when more madness ensued. 

Now we’re dealing with porcupines.  Technically not porcupines.  A single porcupine.  And technically not the actual porcupine itself, but the quills. Last night I dreamt that our 4 year-old family black Lab, named “Wailea” in more blissful times, rolled into the house like a pin cushion.  I was going to infringe the copyright on a Google photo image of a dog with a snout full of quills, but those images were unsettlingly close to my not-quite-faded nightmare. So I chose to infringe on the considerably less frightening image above.  This little critter doesn’t look so scary, right?

I’ve never pulled a porcupine quill from a dog, as far as I can recall.  And I think I would recall something like that.  But in my “dream,” there was one quill in particular that I was never able to pull from Wailea’s forehead.  (Hopefully this does not mean I will return to the quills tonight.) This quill was approximately the length of an unused yellow number 2 pencil.  I yanked on it a couple times by pinching my fingers and thumb together.  No dice.  And Wailea protested loudly as I flailed.  So there we are again — some thorny (pun intended, I suppose) problem that I cannot solve despite my best efforts.  And my inability to fix the problem is causing great pain to something/someone I love and for whom(?) I am responsible.

So I searched all over Breitbart News for “removing porcupine quills from my dog’s nose,” but just couldn’t come up with anything relevant.  Actually, I didn’t do that at all.  But if I had done this in my nightmare, well, I don’t even know where to start on that.

I also dreamt — and I this was a separate and distinct dream as I recall — that I was trying to find a spot in San Francisco Bay for a quick swim. My normal swimming spots, for some reason I didn’t see any of those at all.  They all seemed to be gone, as if they were never there in the first place. So I kept trying to slide in in odd locations.  Once awkwardly traipsing through a picnicking group at the water’s edge.  The picnickers were justifiably annoyed.  And probably confused.  Because it was also nighttime, and a strange time for a swim in the Bay.  (Forget for a moment that maybe they chose an odd time for a picnic.  This is my nightmare, not theirs.)  And their aggravation was enhanced because they likely knew one key fact that I would only discover a moment or two later, as I stepped off the shore:  The water was roughly as deep as my ankles.  But at this point, having rudely disrupted their midnight feast, I had no choice, really.  I had to lie down on my belly.  Hold my breath in a weird, panicky way.  Extend my arms and legs and somehow float out to deeper water.  And of course there was no deeper water to be had. I was beyond embarrassed, as this ridiculous scene played out right in front of the dining companions. I don’t have any idea how this situation ultimately ended; I believe my subconscious let me off the hook (for once) and dropped the curtain before things got any more damaging to my fragile ego.

What in the wide wide world of sports is going on here?  Restaurant tidal waves? Smug porcupine quills behaving like gag, relighting birthday candles?  Swimming in mud puddles?  At this point, I don’t even have any quaint and reassuring means of wrapping up this particular blog post.  No immediately obvious way to whip up some lemonade from these here lemons.

Instead, I’m plain old on edge as to what exactly my sadistic brain stem, thalamus and cortex will dig up for entertainment during tonight’s REM sleep.  Something’s gotta give, before I wake up on Elm Street.

Thanks for reading.  

Where do we go now?


Where do we go?

Where do we go now?

Where do we go?

Sweet child o’ mine

Things are definitely off piste when I’m resorting to seeking solace in Guns N’ Roses lyrics. Generally not my cup of tea. And Slash with the top hat and dangling cigarette — he freaks me out a bit, if I’m being honest. Nevertheless, Axl poses a very good question: Just where in the hell do we go from here?

I’m feeling numb. Feeling stuck. My head is not quite right. Is this what it feels like when someone experiences a genuinely traumatic event and is forced to accept it in order to continue to function? A soldier whose friend a foot away is felled by a bullet on the battlefield. Dead. Gone. Done. That soldier must acknowledge what he or she just witnessed with his or her own senses. Stuff that experience away somewhere to be unpacked (or not) later. The world is changed forever from that moment forward, yes, but the soldier must return his or her attention to soldiering on. Keep running at a full sprint. Stay out of harm’s way himself or herself. Is that what this is?

I’ve been taking my own advice, mind you. We have surrounded ourselves these past few days with good friends and had deep and important dinner table conversations. We have patiently answered our 10 year-old’s myriad queries aimed at sussing out exactly what this new normal means. Reassuring him (and ourselves) as we hear our own words spoken aloud. And I’m not sitting around on the couch in my pajamas all day, gorging on spicy cheetos while the beard stubble on my face gets longer. I’ve run. I’ve hiked. I actually swam in the Bay four times this past week. All of this good stuff has allowed me to keep my moment-to-moment equilibrium. And while I am not drowning, I have to admit that at best, I am only treading water. 

There is something deeper going on. Something that is only now starting to percolate up. Lately I’m having that recurring nightmare where I’m sitting in an ocean view restaurant right in front of a huge window overlooking the sea. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an impossibly gargantuan wave stands up and blots out the sky. Marching right at me. Poised to destroy everything. And there’s absolutely nothing I or anyone else can do. I hate this dream, man. Because I know what it means.  It serves a purpose, beyond just as a nagging reminder not to sit at that table at that restaurant. And beyond taking a second gander at those blue Tsunami Warning signs in my neighborhood. “The closest exit may be behind you….”

This “Impossibly Huge Tidal Wave Nightmare” only bubbles up, it seems, when I am wrestling with some sort of heavy shit. Some important riddle or puzzle or quandary that remains insoluble during my waking hours. My mind pulls out all the stops when contemplating something deeply troubling. “Let’s throw the Ridiculous Wave Nightmare in the mix tonight, send him a signal that something serious is up. In fact, let’s roll that footage every night this week.” Ugh. OK, OK, OK. 

So where do we go now? My subconscious (and those Tsunami Warning signs) are trying to tell me something: Apparently, I need to find higher ground. I’m not sure what that means yet, but I suspect I won’t be alone there. And in the meantime, here’s hoping the maître d’ doesn’t seat me by that ocean view window again at 2am tonight….

Thanks for reading. 

E Pluribus Unum (The Kids Are Alright)


I couldn’t find it inscribed or stamped on anything stuffed in my pockets, at first.  I’ve long since given up on carrying loose change. The rattling and clinking drives me mad. And the $5 and $20 bills I did scrounge up? Well they trust in God, evidently, but not in people and union (and not in Latin). 

Enter Wikipedia for some background on the phrase, “e Pluribus Unum”: The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerges a single nation. However, in recent years its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation—illustrating the concept of the melting pot.”

At the moment, that feels like a stretch. There doesn’t appear to be much Unum crystallizing from all the Pluribus, if you catch my drift. 

And one of the articles I read first thing this morning suggests that it’ll be awhile. In uncertain times, I turn to the sage advice of an American hero. Well, not really. British comedian Ricky Gervais popped up on my Facebook feed. No hilarous videos of his finicky cat or funny-faced bathtub photos. This time, Ricky told me to read an article he considered the best or most important of the year. It is a long read, but go for it

The CliffNotes version? Humanity is poised to go to hell in a handbasket, according to well-documented historical trends. We are staring over the edge, into the abyss, and there is very likely nothing we can do to keep from taking one more numbed step and falling for quite some time. And in fact, we may already be in free fall. 

Holy shit, right?

Probably not the smartest choice on my part to choose that particular apocalyptic piece to set the morning’s tone. Thanks a lot, Ricky. I’m going to need way more videos of your house cat and your goofy, cross-eyed faces in the bath to make up for this terrifying shit you’ve now planted in my head, Ricky. In the future, please Rick, we need from you more of this — 


And less of this —


But fear not, good people. After all, this blog is about making lemonade from lemons. Finding the bright side of the street. Uplifting stuff. Am I right? 

The good news — and by the way, if you haven’t figured this out by now, there is ALWAYS good news — is that the kids are truly alright. Or at least they will be. 

I say this, first, because the post-election data I’ve seen suggests that the young folks have their heads on straight and understand what “north” looks like on a proper moral compass. Here’s the map —

 

Turns out this map was actually based on a pre-election survey, and therefore likely depicts somewhat of an exaggeration. But even still, you get the point, yeah?

Second, we got the teachers. Yes we do. I am the product of two school teachers, and I have been the beneficiary of some wonderful teachers along the way who are not my birth parents. But the teachers my kids and your kids are exposed to nowadays? Off the charts amazing. My 10 year old’s 5th grade teacher emailed me an article about an hour ago that rescued me in the midst of chewing my fingernails completely down to the quick. A perfectly-timed antidote to the fire and brimstone piece suggested by my sadistic friend Ricky. (Thank you, MK!)

It’s another long one, but again, I say go for it. The soaring speech (from which I lifted today’s “EPU” theme) comes down to the teacher’s vow “to help to make this residential school an example of a tolerant, loving, diverse, serious, hard-working, supportive, unbreakable community.” Amen, brother. Amen. 

I say this, lastly, because of the kids themselves. On a more granular level, we have reason to be optimistic because of kids like Jackson Lyon. He is the son of one of my wife’s dearest high school friends. Check out this post on Facebook, and see if it doesn’t lump up your throat as it did mine —

(I did’t ask for permission to post this, so hopefully Jackson and his family are cool with my sharing with you how inspired I am by Jackson’s words.) I think I’ve only met Jackson once, and I think one of us was wearing diapers at the time. Seems he’s all grown up now, or nearly so. If Jackson is any indication of what lies ahead, I think we all have reason to feel hopeful. E Pluribus Unum. 

Thanks for reading. 

Gettin’ Syzygy with It.

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It’s not every day that I hear or read a word I’ve never heard or read before. On the way to grab some pizza for dinner last night, my 5th grader asked me if i knew what “syzygy” meant.  I assumed he was kidding, what a ridiculous word that must be fake. Then I tried to pretend that of course I know what that word (and ALL words) mean, how dare he question my omniscience, etc.  Then I just gave up, clarified the spelling, looked up the definition, and thanked him for the inspiration for my next day’s blog post.  Thanks again, me boy.

Wikipedia says, “[t]he word syzygy is often loosely used to describe interesting configurations of planets.”  After Tuesday, it seems to me, there is definitely an interesting configuration going on.  Not sure where it will end up, but this is most assuredly a time of syzygy.  And it’s a lot to digest, right?  Certainly hard to take in all at once from close range, soaking in it.

So on the heels of yesterday’s blog post, and given my 5th grader’s day off from school today, I pulled the eject lever on the nonstop CNN coverage droning in the background at our house for the last 48 hours. As eager as I am to learn the ins and outs of Tuesday’s seismic election, I think sometimes you just need to get away from that shit. Especially in a time of syzygy.  

So today — at least this morning — I got away from that shit.

My 10 year-old and I drove over the Golden Gate bridge with his dog-sister, and hit the Old Railroad Grade.  This last sentence might give the mistaken impression that Everett and I were totally aligned on this extra-television jaunt.  Actually, he only agreed to go after I made several threats of taking this away or that away.  I may have undercut my credibility here by threatening to take away things that he has already had taken away.  But I was desperate; pleading with him about how “Daddy is SO tired, please cut me some slack and do this with me.” Ultimately promising him a trip to the neighborhood novelty shop for Magic Cards later. I have learned that bribery can be a powerful motivator.

So I packed my pack and we went.  And it was fantastic.  For nearly two solid hours, I barely thought of the election, the uncomfortable sitdown at the White House between Obama and Trump presumably transpiring as my son and dog and I huffed and puffed on the trail.  And for the most part, I was able to refrain from searching my memory banks as to what, exactly, a president can do unilaterally.  On this last point, I clearly need to bone up.  But not during the hike this morning.

It’s not a new observation by any means, but I was reminded again of the value of the outdoors.  It gives perspective.  It makes the heart pump.  It is something over which parents and kids and dogs can bond. I hope the next administration doesn’t do anything to set back the ongoing progress of, among other things, creating more National Parks, inspiring more people to go to those National Parks, and preserving the Parks we already have.

On the trail with my youngest son and only black lab, I felt lucky to be alive.  Lucky to be outdoors.  Lucky to breath fresh air.  Lucky to have food and water in my backpack for the three of us.  Lucky not to step in a dozen piles of horse or coyote or dog poop.  The day was so great, actually, I’d be fine with some shit on my sneakers.  

I guess my point is this:  Everybody get outside, if you can.  Take a walk around the block for just five minutes, if that’s all you have.  Look up.  The sky is still there.  Look down.  The earth is still beneath our feet.  We have a ton of work to do in this country over the coming days and weeks and months and years.  Many things will change, and we’ll all feel the shifts as we navigate this time of syzygy.  We all need a place to come back to as source of perspective, positive energy, and just feeling damned lucky to be alive and to be taking at least one more breath.  So take comfort, good people, in the sky above us, the earth beneath us.  Take comfort in the simple things.

Thanks for reading.  

Rise and Shine

I woke up crying, and for a moment or two, couldn’t figure out why.

The last time I woke up choking back tears was the morning after my grandmother died in a small Upstate New York hospital bed surrounded by family. Years ago, now. How strange to experience profound sadness as the first emotion of the day. And these are not two isolated, unconnected incidents.  Because my grandmother — my inspiration for starting this little blog — taught me how to make lemonade from lemons.  Hence, “The Lemonade Chronicles.”  So, good people, it’s time to make some lemonade.  Here, squeeze this lemon, stir it up, and maybe even drink some along with me….

It would be easier to lash out. Point fingers. Assign blame.  Cry foul. Demean and malign. I admit to giving expression to those base instincts in the last 24 hours.  I am angry, for sure. But I would like to think that I am better than that.  That we are better than that.

So my family and I are not going to choose that path. Instead, this is what we’re going to do —

Practice Resilience.

My most important job is “Dad.”  And my wife’s is “Mom.” In those roles, for years we have preached to our kids the importance of resilience — bouncing back after a setback.  And there have been setbacks: Birthday parties not invited to. Little League all star teams not made.  Schools not admitted to.  Grandparents diagnosed with cancer.   Great grandmother passing away unexpectedly.  And now, a difficult and unexpected general election result.  Every setback, every disappointment, every loss, offers an opportunity to practice resilience. We’re going to pick our heads up off the canvas, get our legs under us, and stand back up.  And we’ll appreciate every knockdown, because that’s just one more chance to get right back up.  Resilience.

Be Grateful.

I’ve always been drawn to a legend of ancient martial arts masters who willed themselves to dream of being dispatched by enemies wielding sharp swords; that way, when they awoke the next morning, alive, they would be elated at the possibility of one more day.  Even one more breath.  Especially in tough times, I have tried to remember and conjure this parable.  I’m grateful that I woke up this morning.  Many people didn’t.  And I’m grateful for the next breath I take, and for the fact that it probably won’t be my last.  Nope, it wasn’t my last. Because there are plenty who at this moment, will not take another breath. My family and I have so many things for which to be grateful.  And I’m not talking about surfboards, and bicycles, and flat screen televisions and wifi.  I’m talking about love.  I’m talking about our health (even knowing that one day will be our last, and at some point there will be only one more breath). I’m talking about our family and friends. We are grateful for you.  Thank you.

Build Empathy.

We have some work to do here.  We are going to need to double down on empathy.  In our San Francisco bubble, this election result is unfathomable and completely unexpected.  I haven’t seen many Trump bumper stickers.  I can count the friends of ours who are Republican on the fingers of one hand.  So I must acknowledge, now, that I am raising my boys in an echo chamber. Our family has not experienced the isolation and frustration felt by 40 million-plus of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. Plenty of women apparently voted for Trump last night, for example.  Can you imagine how much pain they must be experiencing to cast that vote, despite the sexist behavior and words of their chosen candidate?  Similarly, I don’t believe that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot.  Clearly, millions are not, and millions do not support those toxic values.  Their pain drove them to the only choice they felt they had.  I suppose my family and I are “privileged” and “elite,” though I don’t think of ourselves that way.  But clearly, I need to get to fathoming what had previously seemed unfathomable.  People are in terrible pain, and we need to appreciate, respect, and address that.

It’s Cool to Be Kind.

We are also going to be kind.  Kinder, perhaps, because I would like to think that we have been behaving in a kind way.  “Be kind” has been a dinner table mantra for quite some time around here. Easy to say, harder to do.  And even harder to do, as of this morning. Raising a high school sophomore son, we are in the belly of the beast. Even in supposedly “progressive” and right-thinking secondary schools, it is not cool to be kind.  It is cool to demean, to objectify, to criticize, to marginalize.  We are going to have to keep pulling the rope, hard, from the opposite end. Probably need to pull harder than ever before. We are going to keep working on being who we are — authentic and vulnerable with all of our warts.  And we’re going to be savvy consumers of others’ warts.  We’ll look for the warts, everyone has them, that is the real world, and we’ll embrace them.  Yep, we will fancy ourselves as “Wart Embracers.” There is a new premium on kindness now, in my view, and we’re going to give it as much currency as we can.

Do Important, Meaningful Stuff.

None of this means we will be complacent. We will refocus on what is important and on doing meaningful work. I am embarking on a new role with a startup focused on eliminating single use plastic bottles.  This morning, that mission seems even more important.  Too, we have talked as a family for years about finding a single charitable cause on which to focus our efforts, rather than writing myriad modest checks here and there without contributing sweat.  I suspect we’ll be more serious and purposeful about this important work now. Same goes for being more actively involved with the democratic process. And hopefully our kids will discover what drives them, and will be inspired to do something with their lives that leaves the world the better for it.

So these are the thoughts filling my head as my family and I tackle this difficult day.

Wake up, America.  It’s time to rise and shine.

Thanks for reading.

The Woodchuck Revolt (Day 2)


He’s strategic. Executing a sophisticated plot to cut us off from the outside world. Pit us against one another. Pick us off, one by one. The woodchuck has not shown his face today, at least not yet. But his presence is unmistakeable. 

Sliding the back patio door open, I now scan everything within view to ensure Grammie’s Gazebo is not overrun by the vermin. Or that the gopher is not lying in wait under the potted geranium. Even the slightest hint of the critter’s activity causes my heart to skip a beat. Once again, like Lazarus, he has managed to push aside a (relatively speaking) huge chunk of granite placed next to the Gazebo step, intended to keep the woodchuck where woodchucks belong and out of where people belong. Every time I check on the rock, it has been budged a few inches to one side or rotated a few degrees. I suppose this could be due to the changing angle of the sun. But I can’t be sure. It is surely safer to assume the worst here. 

Next I will resort to outlining the rock’s position with chalk. But I’ll need to whittle down the fat chalk pieces available to me. I’ll need a precise, scientific line. Razor-thin. So that there will be absolutely no question when (not if) the chalk-figured granite barrier has been skirted once again. It’s science. 

We have had one false alarm — the result of jumping to conclusions when under duress as we are. The Gazebo’s overhead fan, we noticed, had stopped fanning. It’s background humming was no longer humming. The only possible explanation, of course, was that the rock-blocked beaver had chewed through the fan’s power cord in a fit of pique. Nevermind that Grampie had secured the cord in a thick plastic conduit in the offseason. 

Until yesterday, Grammie and Grampie had always been able to sleep at night by imagining sweet little rabbits as the lovable culprits of such backyard pranks. “Rabbits like to get that little electric jolt,” Grammie reminded me. But the devilish plot at hand is clearly not the work of some silly-assed, floppy-eared rabbit. Anyone can see that. And so sleep is hard to come by, what with being pegged and redlined at this new state of high alert. 

Then again, the gopher didn’t cut the power either, as it turns out. That was yours truly, when I fat-fingeredly unplugged my iPhone charging cord from the Gazebo’s outlet and accidentally pushed the circuit breaker button. So, in point of fact, I broke the circuit breaker and the woodchuck did not. 

Nevertheless, we will remain vigilant. In fact, I think the rock just skipped over its chalk line. 

Thanks for reading.