Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for October, 2010

The Infamous Boomerang.

She’s off fighting for the causes she believes in and putting her body and heart where her mouth is. She graduated from college, demonstrated in Seattle, worked for Americorps VISTA in Albuquerque New Mexico, completed medical school and is now a practicing physician.

No, I’m not speaking about an extremist expecting the world to follow their belief system, I’m speaking about my once cantankerous daughter Darcy. She’s mellowed during her years as an intern and having a baby last year has given her a new perspective on pretty much everything, but she still teaches me a lot about standing up for your self and others.

Before, during and after a Thanksgiving holiday several years ago, Darcy had several heated debates with various family members, including myself, about politics, business, world trade and health care.

Watching her adamantly and forcefully presenting her case; gave me pause and a fit of quiet bemusement. I thought about the infamous boomerang. Everything I’d thrown out in my younger days was being regurgitated back in my direction. It was like looking in a mirror at myself thirty years ago, when I too felt the world was falling apart and only radical and instant change could save it.

I agreed with a lot of Darcy’s ideas and beliefs, but not always with how to achieve them. She wanted to rid the world of fire breathing dragons and she wanted it yesterday! She believed so strongly in her views that there was little room for disagreement or looking at things from any other perspective.

At one point in the conversations held during that holiday, she said, “Maybe when I’m older and have kids I’ll feel differently.” She was right. I don’t think she feels differently, but how she presents what she feels is much easier to digest.

Is it simply age and responsibilities that change a person or could it also, hopefully, be a combination of increased understanding and deeper insight into life’s realities and accepting the limits of what we can and can not do to make the world a better place to live? Or, could it be that I’m not willing to risk as much as I did in the past and have become complacent? Have I become too conservative and set in my ways or did she need to grow up and look at things differently?

I’ve worked hard to be able to work at a job that matches my convictions and beliefs and am living a life that is congruent with my perception of what is needed environmentally and socially. My actions, for the most part, match my rhetoric. I pick my battles instead of trying to fight them all in one fell swoop. But, is that enough? I believe so, but maybe it took her young eyes of determination, questioning and insistence upon change to keep me looking in the mirror to see if mine were still open?

How Old Are You?

It happened right before my eyes and I didn’t see it. How could I have missed it? How could I be so blind? My son, Brendon, had grown from a little boy into a man. It was his eighteenth birthday and we were flying to London, England; the land of Dickens and Shakespeare; the place he’d wanted to visit since junior high school.

It wasn’t their famous authors or history that he was interested in, it was the pull of a large, exciting, cosmopolitan city filled with nightlife, plays, clubs, art and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation).

This was our trip; a father and son fulfilling a childhood dream, spending time together without any of his brothers, sisters or other parents. The journey ended up being more than a travel adventure. For me, it was a wake up call and reminder of life’s limits; of values and validation; of remembering what’s important and letting go of what isn’t.

Brendon ended up making a lot of decisions, deciding what to do, where to go and how to get there. He read the fine print on the train or bus schedules; the print I couldn’t read; the words that were a blur of small letters to my aging eyes.

“You need some new glasses,” he said. Imagine, my son telling ME what I need!

“It’s this way,” he’d say, referring to the right direction to visit a certain district or tour.

“No. No. It’s over here,” I’d insist.

Nine out of ten times he was right. Imagine, my son, the little boy I’d carried in my arms and on my back, telling ME which way to go! My son, walking longer and farther day by day, finding his way to a late night club by himself; not wanting me to come with him. Imagine that!

Not only did his independence and energy make me feel old, but it also instilled a new found respect and appreciation for who he is and how he lives in the world. He was kind and considerate to all those we met and responsible enough to have the courage to ask for help when needed. I was proud to be his father.

Being with my son outside the U.S also opened my eyes to the advantages and disadvantages of living in America. Though it’s still difficult and not everyone in The States is feeling financially stable, it was still a lot cheaper for food, rent, utilities and gas here, than it was in England. Petro in Great Britain costs the equivalent of five to six dollars per gallon (as it does throughout most of Europe) and groceries run about fifteen percent more. In general, there’s more space in America than in England. Houses and apartments are like little gingerbread boxes there and the toilets (rarely referred to as bathrooms) are just big enough to squeeze into and close the door.

On the other hand, the English seem to feel much more connected with a larger community, not as isolated as our country can be. Their coverage of the news was more diverse, including all the worlds’ peoples and countries, not just there own.

The Brits’ live IN history, surrounded by centuries of monuments, castles, museums and ruins. Their past seems more alive at times than the present, whereas we in the U.S. tend to view anything over two days old as ancient or irrelevant.

Best of all, the English seemed friendlier than I had remembered when I visited twenty-odd years before this trip. Everywhere we traveled, whether it was in the beautiful green countryside, small Elizabethan villages or in London, with its numerous historical sites and exhibits; people would say, “Lovely.” Giving us change for a purchase the clerk would say, “Lovely.” Opening a door for someone entering or leaving a building resulted in another “Lovely. Thank you.” When responding to a statement about an object, person or event, we’d hear another “Lovely, isn’t it?”

Much to Brendon’s embarrassment, lovely became my favorite word. I started repeating it, with the best British accent I could muster, day in and day out. For me, it implied an appreciation and acceptance of the momentary human interaction, an acknowledgment of the beauty and joy available at our fingertips. When people asked about our trip, it’s easy to sum up my love of Brendon and our time in England together in one simple word “Lovely”.

Media Messages About Bullying and Harassment

This was written by Irene and is being reposted from the Kidpower Fullpower Teenpower Blog, with their permission.

I’ll never forget when my son, many years before Gavin de Becker pointed this out in The Gift of Fear, watched the movie The Graduate and said in a horrified voice, “You told me this was a funny movie, but he’s stalking her, Mom!”

The good news is that social perceptions, understanding, and laws about what kinds of behavior are acceptable or not are changing. However, bullying and harassment are often shown in film and books as being entertaining or even humorous.

Both kids and adults need to remember that there is a big difference between pretend and real. No matter how interesting or funny something might seem on the screen or in print, in real life, it is not okay to behave unsafely. You have the right to stop people who say or do mean or unsafe things to you – and the responsibility not to be hurtful or unsafe with others. And, if you are the adult in charge, your job is to make sure that everyone understands the rules and has the skills to speak up for themselves – as well as the job of enforcing the rules when you need to.

This is one of the chapter intros in our new Kidpower Bullying e-book that will be available by November 15th:

Bugs Bunny. Bart Simpson. Harry Potter. Garfield and Odie. Daffy Duck. Huck Finn. Pinnocchio. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Charlie Brown and Lucy. Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch. The Ugly Duckling. Edward Scissorhands. Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat. Spiderman. Scrooge. Popeye and Brutus. Little Orphan Annie. Oliver Twist. Tom and Jerry. The Roadrunner and Wiley E. Coyote. Cinderella & her stepsisters. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. Caliban from The Tempest. Asterix and Obelix. Calvin and Hobbes. The Karate Kid.

Some of the best-loved characters in books and film were bullied, bullied others, or both. Bullying used to be taken for granted as a normal part of childhood. Now, we know differently.

For more information about our new e-book Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do To Keep Kids Safe, visit:
http://www.kidpower.org/store/e-book.html

And here’s more information about our other Bullying Prevention Resources: http://www.kidpower.org/bullying.html

Baby Wreaks Havoc

Having a newborn wreaks havoc on two aspects of daily life I used to take for granted sex and sleep. I would give my life savings for one night of either after our son was born.

The reality of a baby taking control of our lives around the clock had crossed my mind but never stopped to linger until the first week of shock had passed with our new son, Shona.

Sleep deprivation is a killer. Night after night, every two to three hours, the call of the wild shrieks from the crib, “Whaaaaaa.”

“No. It can’t be!” I exclaim. “Not again! We just fell asleep! I can hardly move.”

As I roll out of bed, hit my knee on the desk and grope my way through the dark, I remind myself that I wanted this experience. I asked for it and there’s no turning back.

How could anyone in their right mind choose this nightly torture? Nobody put a gun to my head, promised me riches or threatened to blow up my house. This had surely been a conscious decision, although it must have been made while I was in a coma or under general anesthetic!

As I turn the corner to enter the baby’s room, I slam my nose into the door I thought was open. I swear loudly.

“Whaaaaaa.”

“Hold on, I’m coming,” I groan.

Entering the room I quickly turn on the soft light and see my son’s arms flailing in the air as his tiny little mouth roars his need for attention like a ferocious lion. He grabs my finger with his waving hand and tries to suck on it. While picking him up I realize how small and fragile his body is and recall that his screaming is the only thing he can do to ask for help.

Cradling this sweet precious babe silently in my arms while he stares blissfully into my eyes soon releases any anger or frustration I was previously feeling. I whisper to myself, “How could I ever doubt the desire to create this amazing miracle?!”

After a diaper change and 30 minutes of rocking, I lay him back down to sleep with the hope that he’ll be knocked out for at least 48 hours. Why not dream for a miracle? I never get enough sleep anymore to really dream anyway.

By the time I’ve navigated my way back to bed I’m fully awake. Looking over at the clock I discover it’s 3 a.m., only about three hours before I need to get up for work. I glance over at my beautiful wife, Audrey, who is breathing loudly in the land of Nod. As I turn off the light and stare into the darkness, I begin to wonder if this madness will ever end.

Three months go by and nothing has changed. Not only is sleep a vague memory, but sex seems to have also disappeared down a long dark tunnel.

It’s 10 p.m. and Shona has finally fallen asleep. Audrey slowly undresses, slips into bed and beckons me with an alluring glance of desire and warmth. As we begin to lovingly caress one another, a slow fog of fatigue fills our bodies and without so much as a sigh we’re both gone, not from ecstasy, but exhaustion. The next sound we hear is not the anticipated joy of climax but a loud cry waking us from our unintended sleep.

Eight days pass. (Yes, I counted). It’s Saturday. Shona has gone to bed. We both took a nap earlier in the day and are anxious to co-mingle our bodies with pleasure. We finally feel that we have some energy for one another and are determined to not let anything come between us. That was the plan.

We begin one passionate kiss after another when I suddenly sense that Audrey’s mind has drifted away. I take a deep breath and apprehensively ask her what she’s thinking about. She nervously says, “Do you think he’s OK? He hasn’t cried in a long time.”

“Yes, I’m sure he’s just fine,” I reply and begin kissing her passionately with greater urgency. Again she stops and says, “I’m going to go check on him real quick. I’ll be right back.” While she’s gone to the other room I feel myself beginning to implode with frustration and resentment. “What about me? What about my needs?” I begin to feel sad and sorry for myself. She jumps back into bed and reassures me that our child is just fine and he’s, “soooooo cute.”

Time goes by and Audrey is surrounding my body when she suddenly exclaims, “Stop. That hurts!” We both look at each other in amazement. We didn’t expect this. Her muscles haven’t recovered from the trauma of birth and it’s too uncomfortable to continue. She’s just as disappointed as I am and we console one another with hugs and kisses.

Weeks go by. We attempt a variety of sexual activities but nothing seems to ease the pain except time. Finally, after three months of no sleep or sexual connection, a miracle happens!

It’s a Thursday night. A night I’ll never forget. For some reason known only to the baby gods, Shona goes to sleep at 8 p.m. and sleeps until 8 a.m. the following morning! Audrey’s body is fully recovered and we gently make love for the first time without any discomfort or pain.

What a thrill. It almost feels like The First Time all over again. My faith in life slowly returns from months of male postpartum depression. There is hope after all. It is possible to give birth, have a child and time for yourself and your partner. Patience, understanding and commitment to making it work eventually pans out.

Like the song from the movie Casablanca says, “You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss. A sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental rules apply . . . as time goes by.”

So, when your tiny tot is screaming, you’re not sure if you’re awake or asleep and you think your partner has taken vows of celibacy, stop and remind yourself that this too shall pass. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning your baby will one day sleep through the night and the precious intimacy and joy of sex will flow again.

Falling For Fun

Our family loves to kick, punch, strike and throw each other around. I’m not talking about domestic violence, which is sadly far to common, nor is this a metaphor for some violent form of communication. What I am referring to is an inter-generational love of martial arts. A love of learning how to defend oneself and others, while simultaneously strengthening and calming our body, hearts and minds.

When I was a young man (about two hundred years ago) I was lucky enough to discover a martial arts school in my hometown that taught Judo and Ju-Jitsu. The head teacher (Sensei) was a woman named Professor Jane Carr. The reason I say “lucky” is because I could have innocently become involved with a so-called teacher who had not been well trained, whose only concern was fighting or winning competitions and/or making money. A teacher, who cared more about power, control and prestige then self-control, honor and respect.

Professor Carr was different. She was a teacher, warrior, mother, counselor, non-violent activist and friend all rolled up into one. She expected all her students to work hard to improve themselves in all aspects of their lives, in and out of the dojo (practice hall). She commanded respect, not because of her fighting skills (which are formidable), but because she showed respect for others and would settle for nothing less in herself. Her presence demonstrated and invited those around her to discover their own inner strengths and character. Professor Carr is still teaching (after 45 years) and her daughter is head instructor at the academy.

When I moved to Santa Cruz I took up Tai Chi Chuan, which is a slow-moving series of Chinese exercises that can also be used for other means. I studied for a short time with Dale Strawhacker (a local acupuncturist and Tai Chi instructor) and continue to practice at home every morning.

Our oldest son took Tae Kwon Do (Korean karate) with Master Song at Song’s Martial Arts Institute. We had checked a number of schools to make sure this was a place of learning and respect. We had wanted him to have a positive experience, like I had as a teen. After six months our autistic son’s coordination, strength and self-confidence had increased ten-fold.

It seems that people rolling, jumping, falling, moving and breathing their way to health and vitality have surrounded us. Our oldest son’s friend practiced the Brazilian art of Copeira. A number of our children’s friends have taken Aikido (a Japanese martial art) or karate and many of our adult friends seem to be thrilled with Qi Kung (a separate or combined art of Chinese Gung Fu). A previous colleague told me how her entire family works out together and their daughter has gone to the national championships in Tae Kwon Do. My wife and youngest son practiced Gung Fu in Watsonville for a number of years with a wonderful teacher at Black Tiger Academy.

We are very fortunate in Santa Cruz County to have such a variety and depth of knowledge, traditions and practices to choose from. We have martial arts from Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Okinawa. There are schools that focus on self-defense, competition, physical health or all three. Some emphasize having fun. Others prioritize meditative practices, aerobics and rhythm or creating community.

Qualified teachers, of whatever backgrounds or style; will have you and/or your children’s well being as their priority. They will practice what they preach by paying attention to there words and actions, but not focusing on themselves. They will instill confidence, support and compassion, not fear, dominance or adoration.

Consider what qualities you want in a teacher before you choose a particular style or school. Visit different classes and practice halls before you decide where to spend your money and time. Ask questions about the instructor’s background, their philosophy and approach to learning. Talk to their students. Once you find the right fit, stay with it and practice daily. You’ll soon find that it will give you a positive spin on every aspect of your life and those around you.

Show On Oprah Hits Home

The promo for the story that was on Oprah yesterday reads, “In an instant, a car accident shattered their lives. And then, one year later, an absolutely miraculous twist of fate you have to see to believe.” The show highlighted the Cobles, who three and a half years ago had all 3 of their young children (Kyle, Emma and Katie) killed in a car accident and then a year later had triplets (2 girls and a boy). If they had simply talked about the tragedy and then jumped to them having the identical number of kids a year later, it would have been disappointing and misleading, but it wasn’t.

Lori and Chris Coble shared there journey (so far) with honesty, integrity and clarity. They let themselves be raw in the places that are raw and talked about the struggles, thoughts of giving up and most importantly, what they have found works for them to survive such a tragedy. They didn’t tip-toe around any subject. They have not, in any form or fashion, tried to replace their children who died with those now living. They’ve done what many find difficult, which is to keep those who have died in there lives and honor them by living the best they can and nurturing the children now in their care.

Oprah did a good job of compassionate listening and asking them to express themselves without telling them or the audience, what they should or shouldn’t feel or trying to rescue them and put some positive spin on their every word. The only comment that was made which seemed slightly off the mark and which continues to be propagated, was the idea of “stages”, as if you go through one at a time and then at a certain point in time you have “recovered”. It wasn’t portrayed that way strongly, but still somewhat implied.

A lot of what the Cobles have gone through seems so similar to the people I interviewed around the country for Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Over half the people I spoke with had lost children and they had all had to deal with despair, depression, anger, anxiety, terror and frustration. They also all ended up doing something to help others (as a result of there loss).

People aren’t all so altruistic and in many respects, it is quite amazing that anybody can keep living and moving forward when they have experienced the kind of loss that the Cobles have. The ultimate message seems to be that you can survive the worst that can happen and keep walking ahead, even if it’s just one step at a time, getting out of the chair or off the floor.

Money and Sex Can’t Buy It

Nothing spices up a relationship like romance. Whether you’ve been together ten days, months, years or decades, sharing your love and desire for your partner is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Everyone wants to be adored and appreciated. You don’t need a lot of time and money or a doctorate in sexology, to keep the sparks flying. Here are a few ways to re-vitalize, reawaken and jump start your partnership.

Place flowers that are visually stimulating on the table and change them several times a week. Roses’, tulips, daisies, forget-me-nots, gladiolas, sunflowers, carnations and orchids are just some of the vast array of plant species that provide sensual images of curves, softness, rising, opening and merging.

Take a TO DO list to your office or place of work. On the list write down special, thoughtful things you are going to do for your partner every night when you get home from work. Help with the dishes, finances, dinner or childcare; massage their neck and shoulders; stop and get them a card or gift; pick up a movie they’ve been wanting to see; or just telling them how much they mean to you.

Get up early in the morning, while your love is still sleeping and make them breakfast or go out and buy breakfast. Serve them breakfast in bed, with accompanying flowers and coffee.

Ride bikes, run, walk and/or hike together in the woods, meadows, valleys or parks. Keeping fit maintains your health and increases the odds that you will live longer to enjoy one another’s companionship.

Allow time for each of you to be with friends and family separately. Friendships outside the relationship are vital. Nobody can be everything or fulfill all your emotional or creative needs. Give your partner the freedom to interact and connect with others. Talk with your partner about your friends and family; let them know about their ups and downs. Though your time with others can be special, don’t keep secrets.

Join a club, church or civic organization together. Get involved. Help your selves and your partnership, while helping others. Remember that your marriage is dependent on many factors, including family, friends and community. Your relationship doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Honor the connections and lend a hand.

Give your partner a massage, from head to toe or vice-a-versa. Apply hot towels and massage oil. Try different scents and oils until you find one you both enjoy. Take your time. Intimately explore every muscle, curve and crevasse. Ask if you’re applying too much or too little pressure. Trade giving and receiving massages if you have enough time or alternate evenings for one, than the other. A good massage can be as sensual and pleasurable as any sexual act, especially when it is given with attention and care.

If time alone was the main ingredient for a loving partnership, than everyone would be in bliss at a specific given moment, but the spice that really keeps the fire’s burning is attention and care. It is the time and attention that make the difference.

If you feel that you aren’t getting the same kind of thoughtfulness in return, talk about it, don’t let it slide or take it to bed. There is nothing wrong with conflict, as long as you learn how to work with it and accept your differences.

Take a pause from thinking about your self and help your partner with their coat; give them a hug and kiss before you leave and when you return; check in throughout the day and ask about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking; become an emotional barometer that tunes into your love’s weather station.

Remember what brought you together and attracted you in the beginning. Think about your deepest intentions. What do you want from your relationship? If it is money or sex, it will never be enough; if it is security and safety, you will never feel completely safe and secure; if it is to love and be loved, there is a good chance you’ll find it. Whenever you forget why you’re together, return to your heart.

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