Sunday, January 31, 2010


I have been dreading listening to this recording for over a month and finally did today. In December I was asked to participate in a radio interview on a rather sensitive subject, sex education in the schools.  That’s right, sex education, a controversially charged topic that can bring out the conservative side of even the most card-carrying, born and raised bleeding-heart liberal. Before agreeing, I made sure I had the support of my administrators.  Much to my dismay, they gave it, freely and with their blessings.  So much for that excuse.

At first I was excited by the challenge.  Even though I am a long time listener and fan of talk radio, never have I been compelled to call in on a show to engage in a conversation broadcast for thousands of people to hear.  The thought paralyzed me with fear.  What if I sound stupid?  Which I could.  What if I don’t know what I’m talking about? Which is possible. What if, what if, what if?

I realize there is an entire culture out there of folks who listen to talk radio and call in regularly.  And I have been very critical of some of these caller, and guest experts for that matter.  I have been known to criticize, scold, boo, yell, curse idiot callers, even if I’m the only one present in the car while listening.  I am the person who I would not want to hear me! 

I prepared well for the call, reviewing the science standards and State health standards.  I thought about how over the years I’ve developed lessons that would both educate and interest teens.  I always consider the parents and put myself in their shoes.  What truths do I want my 12 and 13 year olds to hear? The truth, this is the one topic that gets 100% of the attention of 100% of the students 100% of the time.  Can’t get more relevant than testicles and breasts.

There was an expert on the call as well.  A wonderful Sociologist Professor from a nearby University who has conducted studies and written a book on the topic of sex education.  She was smart, articulate and after all, a published author.  The thing is, not sure if she’s actually ever worked with teens.  In fact, I don’t know if she has kids of her own. She was gentle with me, however and supported what I had to share.

The host was also very comforting.  A professional, well educated woman with a private practice and a radio show.  With teens of her own she’s living the ups of downs of parenting. Her voice was rich and she exuded intelligence.  I give her high marks for asking some very pointed, direct questions.  Nary a subject within the subject did she skirt.

And then there was me, hence, the waiting over a month to listen to the show.  After the call, which was recorded for a later broadcast, I was sure it did not go well, even after the host emailed me telling me otherwise.  Boy, did my self-doubts get the best of me. 

So today, a month later, was the day I listened.  I cringed with my frequent use of “ums” towards the beginning of the show.  Oh, to do over!  I answered the questions as honestly as I could, which pleased me. I even cracked a joke during the process. Quite spontaneous!  I thought I would be disappointed by my faux pas.  I wasn’t.  Although I do not have multiple letters in my professional title, I know what I’m talking about.  So, overall challenging as it was, I felt satisfied that I had stepped out of my proverbial comfort zone and tried something new.  Was anyone listening?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Colliding Worlds! Gary

"Don't do it, you're not going to like the answer" said my wiser, more patient Better Half.  I didn't see the harm in asking, and although I was privately hoping for a different result, I knew she was probably right.  I promised her I wouldn't take it personally.

I was contemplating 'friend requesting' my younger, iconoclastic daughter on my new "Facebook" account. New to this online world of sharing thoughts, salutations, congratulations, and in some cases, almost "play by play" accounts of one's daily life, I had to admit I was, surprisingly,  enjoying it.   Any communication from our older daughter at school is always a ray of sunshine, even if her most recent addition had been informing me that my attempt to add to someone's page was off the mark and on my own page. I also had to admit it was fun to see something that a friend had written on my 'wall', especially all the Italian friends I hadn't seen in years.  (Apparently Facebook is very popular in the Old Country. I laughed at the irony of an amico's malaprop welcoming me to "faceboob".)

So with the miniscule number of just 34 friends in my stable, I cautiously sent out the request to daughter number two to become my facebook 'friend' and allow mutual windows into our semi-private worlds.  I waited....and waited...
A day later, I received a text sandwiched around friendly and innocuous mini-conversations about what time the NFL playoffs were on. Out of nowhere came a short reply that read...."By the way Dad, I will not be accepting your friendship on facebook. Like in the old Seinfeld episode, some worlds are not meant to collide. Hope you'll understand". 

So my wife was she almost always is, although I really didn't mind the answer. While I may have enjoyed the privilege of my own window into my 18 year old's world, perhaps it's not one that she chooses to share, or one that I should be a part of. I can live with that.  I've finally begun understanding more about family solar systems and the necessity, in some cases of space and time.  Some planets have orbits that stay very consistently close to the sun while others venture out and seem far away, only to return back, over time if you're patient.   It's the order of things, unless something big gets in the way and collides.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hot and Cold!

I am my own compact and complete cooling and heating system.  It works better than the antiquated thermostat in our house. My body has this amazing ability to heat up and cool down randomly.  And it is a skill that only came on recently.  In the middle of the night it hits, temperature escalates to well over 98.6 degrees.  Toasty warm.  As the temp continues to rise, blankets get tangled up in a twisted mess below my lower legs. Pajama bottoms come off. Husband and dog sleeps peacefully near by. 

Miraculously, as beads of sweat collect on my exposed skin, air conditioning begins to cool this temple of mine, just a little too well.  I begin to shiver.  Where did I throw those pajama bottoms?  Never mind, untangle blankets and cover up.  Husband and dog sleep peacefully near by.

Heat up, sweat, cool down, repeat.  That’s the cycle until the break of dawn when the alarm annoyingly threatens to go off. 

I now understand what my comrades have been whining about. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Who says 18 year olds are callow, shallow, self-absorbed?  On her way to work a few days ago, our daughter pulled in line at a Starbucks drive-thru for a cup of coffee.  Much to her surprise and delight the barista handed the steaming “cup o Joe“ and proclaimed, “no charge”.  Why?  Apparently the car in front of her paid for her treat! 

Touched with the sweet gesture she glanced in the mirror at the car behind her.  Yep, kindness paid backwards, that’s exactly what she did, treated for the coffee of the person next in line without them knowing. 

With a warmth that penetrated deep within her, it wasn’t the coffee that produced that sensation. 

I imagine the smile on the baristas face on that chilly morning and wonder how far the chain of kindness continued.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Lost and Found" by Gary

Last week, a few nights before Christmas, our daughter's 1994 Black Honda Accord was stolen from its parking space in front of our house.  I hate when that happens!
Its absence wasn't immediately alarming, or even noticed--any other time the car had been missing it was because it had been borrowed or left at a friends house overnight.  However when our daughter called us in at school in the middle of the day asking if we had taken it for our morning commute, we realized something was definitely amiss. We suggested she file a police report right away.

The Petaluma police officer was polite and efficient. He reported that Hondas were frequently stolen due to a forgiving entry key and ignition system and a strong demand in the secondary parts market. Ours was one of two hondas reported stolen that night.  Most likely, he told our daughter, the car was in the East Bay being stripped of it's parts. In my mind I imagined our honda perched on a carving board like a Thanksgiving carcass. I cringed inwardly to think of "Black Beauty" (all of our cars have names) ending it's existence in this way. The reported loss included the contents of the car: yoga mat, ipod charger, clothing, etc. Fortunately our daughter's product display table wasn't in the car; she had taken it out to make room for a 5 gallon pail filled with persimmons from her uncle's house.
The idea bothered us: car thieves driving up and down sleepy little Westridge Place, our cozy abode of more than twenty years, in the middle of the night????  Our consternation turned to anger a bit later. How low would someone go, to steal a car just days before Christmas? The loss was bad enough, but who needs the police report, insurance calls and alternate ride schedules at the busiest time of the season? 
The first call, to our insurance company felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  The honda was not insured comprehensively for theft. Chalk up another denied insurance claim for the O's,  completing the trifecta that went with last summer's botched drapery cleaning by the house cleaning service in Tahoe and Alyssa's Mustang, totaled by an uninsured driver in 2007. This has not been a good couple of years for us insurance-wise... Oh well, we decided to move on.

A friend offered unlimited use of a spare miata that she was selling, for as long as we needed it. It was a kind and generous gesture and we accepted.  Teresa was enamored with the little sports car and took to it quickly as she enjoyed  quick jaunts around the neighborhood. And when our daughter disclosed her uneasiness with driving a stick-shift,  Teresa became the logical driver of the miata. It would make sense for us to buy it. Our daughter would gladly take the old CRV.

Over the next few days, we adjusted to our new transportation assignments. The CRV was reliable, safe transportation for our daughter; and the little miata was a lot of fun. Teresa enjoyed the responsiveness and manueverability of the cherry-red sportscar. After trips to the DMV and insurance companies, we were back up to full speed and over the loss of the stolen car.

Then the phone call 3:15 am, a time when calls are never a good thing. It was a Twin Cities police officer. The Honda had been recovered in Greenbrae.  We had less than an hour to come down and claim it, otherwise it would be towed and stored at our expense. I didn't quite understand why all this couldn't wait until a more reasonable hour. Weren't we the victims here?? Dazed, Teresa and I looked at each other and started to put on some sweats. "But I like Bing!" was all she could say.
The drive to Greenbrae was sureal. There were practically no other cars on the road. I remembered that we took the exact same, middle of the night trip to the hospital 18 and 21 years earlier when our daughters were ready to come into this world.

We pulled into the gas station where the car had been recovered. It was surrounded by three police officers, like a SWAT team, although instead of holding drawn guns they had donuts and coffee. The youngest, shortest officer of the group came forward to greet us, as if it was his duty as the 'rookie' while the more experienced officers watched.  He was very professional as he retold the recovery story and signed off the paperwork. Teresa blurted out her first and foremost  question: 'Did they recover the big pail of persimmons from Uncle Tommy's?!!"

The car ended up being in fine running condition. All the contents were gone, replaced by numerous cigarette butts and a seemingly absurd number of clues that the police overlooked or avoided (filed down keys, matchbook with phone numbers, prying screwdriver, and later, three toll evasion violations showing the precise time of trips back and forth over the Richmond bridge). Yet it was evident the police department's role was complete and this was a 'closed case'. We drove home, and the unspoken question lingered....somewhere between Terra Linda and Ignacio,  I looked over at  Teresa and said, yes, we could keep "Bing". Her smile told me I had read her mind exactly...Back at home, the return to a deep sleep came surprisingly easy.  And in the morning, we celebrated by slicing up and enjoying the only remaining persimmon from Uncle Tommy's tree. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

27 Sheets of Paper!

27 sheets of paper lay safely tucked away in a drawer beside our bed.  27 sheets of paper representing the 27th New Year of this lovely little tradition of ours.  27 cups of tea later, we’ve dreamed of what we want to have, what we want to do, and most importantly how we want to be.  Bullet point by bullet point, written in alternating he and she script, these 27 sheets of paper chronicles the evolution of our marriage reduced to its essence. 

And it all started because we were broke!  Very broke.  No money, no savings, zip, nada, niente!  A very modest wedding behind us and a ton of growth before us, we were bound and determined to be intentional about, well just about everything.  Intentional before it was in vogue that’s how at ages 26 we began our lives together. 

Each year as we look back, we revel in the memories.
   1983 we needed to save money.  We also needed to earn some.
   1985 money saved we bought our first home.
   1986 we dreamed of starting a family.
   1988 dream came true when our first daughter was born.  Heaven!
   1989 husband becomes a teacher
   1991 the joyful anticipation of child number two.  Magical!
   And so it goes…..

Along the way there were trips taken, job changes, investments made, good health, bad health, first communions, confirmations, graduations, marriages, funerals, singing, dancing, births and deaths.  Year after year, adventure after adventure, we lovingly looked back at what was accomplished, what wasn’t, and looked forward to the possibilities of the coming year, but with this in mind.

You can be as intentional as ever, but be prepared for the unexpected.  Because all the planning in the world will never prepare one for the unbelievable depth of emotions, sadness, joy and love that come with lives fully lived.

And this year, keep reading.