My first book has been released!

My first book has been released!
Available on Amazon and Kindle

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tides of Life

When I was growing-up, my family spent memorable summers at the Jersey Shore building sandcastles to be washed away again and again by the thundering surf. Now that I live on the beach in Florida, I learned that in addition to all of the fun associated with a day at the beach, the event has many lessons to teach.
You see, what most people, who only go to the beach for the day or a week may not realize, is that the beach is not always a beautiful place.  It's a completely unique beach every single day.  One morning, you walk along the shoreline and your feet are warmed and massaged by smooth sand.  The seashells you find are all perfect, whole treasures, and the waves are just big enough to tickle your soul as they carry you, giggling like a lover, safely back to shore.
Other mornings, the beach is littered with ghastly, stinging jellyfish.  Your toes are stabbed and scratched by jagged shells.  Your arms and legs get bound and tangled in webs of foul-smelling seaweed.  Overpowering waves batter you and spit in your face, stinging your eyes, forcing tears, as you struggle find your balance.
Sometimes, you smell a rotting fish that sea gulls, which a day before appeared so graceful and beautiful, are fighting brutally amongst themselves to salvage. One flies away celebrating with a sinister laugh as it carries bloody chunks. You can't imagine that you were deceived into seeing it as a dove once.
Despite its cosmic beauty and its gloomy ugliness, its daily certainty and its growing mystery, the one thing that the ocean has taught me to remember in life is consistency.  No matter what happens; no matter what my marital or income status; no matter what time of the year it is, the waves keep rolling into the shore and out to the sea--over and over, with nothing to stop it, forever and ever into all eternity.
As we move through “our times” often made bleaker by the media, we must realize that there are always going to be wonderful days of smooth sands that form perfect shells of memories. Likewise, there will also be days where the dull sky and murky water seem to meet to form endless grey.  Like the surf rolling in and out, what you must keep in your mind and in your heart is what remains constant.  Here is what I have learned:
First, you are never alone.  Let the waves remind you of the support of your family; regardless of how your family is defined.  If you don’t have a family in the traditional sense, know that you will always be part of the human family and someone is here for you.  Take the risk and let someone know that you need help. I promise a pool of support will be captured by your openness.
Second, as you weigh the burdensome questions and decisions, stand firmly on the shores of the core values of honesty, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, and compassion.  These will always keep you afloat, above the bottom feeders, who will eventually be consumed by larger scum.
Finally, if pressure seems so great that you think that you can't possibly make it  another day, just close your eyes and remember the sounds of the ocean.  Listen in on your soul for the greater than you waves rolling in and rolling out that have been there everyday since your birth.  Your worrying will never change or impact that in any way.  No problem in your life will ever be more significant than the tiny grains of sand.  They are continuously stripped from the shore as the wave rolls out and redeposited in a completely different circumstances, as the tide rolls in.  Nothing will ever interrupt that rhythm.  Tomorrow will still come, and you will be able to face it.
This is the give and take of life. It reminds us to appreciate and celebrate our rightful place as children of the universe.  ALL the rest is just some crazy sunscreen—colorless, meaningless, layers that we apply as humans.  It's as if we think we actually have the power to combat forces as powerful as the sun. Put your hand up to stop the glare of electronic humanity and look within.
Surrender. Grab a beer.  Sit in a beachy chair.  Close your eyes. Remember what matters.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture?

Recently, friends and I were weighing the pros and cons of presenting the concept of “being gay” to elementary school children.  Some were concerned that the mere talk of it could be the equivalent of notifying children that they have options from which to choose.  Yet, from my experience raising my son, Aaron, an only child, I observed that children are who they are at a very young age.
 Even in Kindergarten, when I had 11 little boys joyously celebrating my son’s 6th birthday on an apple farm in PA, there were clear divisions among the guests.  They drastically differed in size and shape as well as personality.  Ten boys would be pleasantly engaged in a 5 on 5 Wiffle ball game.  Sure, a few barely knew what was going on and one or two may have been picking their noses instead of fielding a grounder.  Two others would be off to the side—one trying to put a firecracker in an apple and another, riding my son’s Big Wheel down a steep hill to see how it would feel to crash into a birch tree.  Then, there was the one sweet boy, who followed me around the kitchen suggesting that the pale blue napkins would make a better color palette then the Yankee's themed napkins.  One other boy iced the cup cakes and asked if he decorate them with pink and blue sprinkles, instead of malt ball baseballs.  
Meanwhile, I thought I would have some control over shaping what type of man my son would become.  I insisted that he would never play with toy guns.  In the early 80s, there were many experts claiming that violent movies and toys were “turning” America’s children aggressive.  Meanwhile, he loved Legos, Transformers, and his amazing little Computron Computer.  He was having fun and guns would never be allowed in my house.  Was this too strict?

 I thought I might have been and was more than a little concerned when I took my son to Toys R Us to select any toy he wanted after he received perfect scores on first grade report card.  My grandmother started this tradition with us when we were younger.  Back in the 60s, she was shocked when my brother selected a baby alligator as his prize after making the Honor Roll in 4th grade. Nanny kept to her word and my brother got whatever he selected, despite her disgust.
I stood back in Toy R Us as my son went up and down the colorful aisles assessing which toy would be his best reward.  I knew immediately that he found something when he jumped up, and then “skipped” a bit as and declared, “This is it.”  My heart sunk…but if my grandmother accepted an alligator, I too had to keep my own mouth shut.  My face instantly tightened, yet I was able to force a really straight smile that more resembled gritting my teeth.  “Are you sure, Aaron, honey?” I asked.  He said, “Yea, I love this!”  He handed me a clear bubble package that contained a pink plastic blow dryer and 8 pink curlers and rushed to the register.   Did this mean what I thought it meant?
I begrudgingly paid for the selected item and sighed as my little blonde haired boy excitedly skipped through the parking lot to our white Ford Tempo.  He was  giddy.  I was sick with worry.  I asked, “Aaron, you seem so happy.  Why do you like this toy so much?”  He stopped, took the bubble package out the plastic bag, letting the bag drift away in the wind.  He pointed to the hair dryer and said, “This, here, is my ray gun.”  Then he pointed to the pink curlers, “And these are my bombs.”
 I sighed relief.
Still, to ensure that I was an open-minded mother, I decided, against his father’s strongest objections, that my son would have a doll. I wanted him to be able to demonstrate his nurturing side. One day, I bought him the “My Buddy” doll, which was a 36 inch stuffed boy doll wearing blue cover-alls, an orange and yellow striped shirt, and a red baseball cap covering blond hair.  I wanted to prove that I was able to let my son enjoy gender neutral toys. 
When I came home late from coaching basketball one night, I walked into the living room to find my son on the couch with his doll.  He had his left hand on the doll’s cap and the other on the crotch.  “What’s going on here?” I asked on the inside.  Aloud, I said, “Hey, Aaron, what are you up to?”
Aaron stood up on the coach and lifted the blue clad “My Buddy” doll over his head.  He nodded to direct my attention downward to the drab beige carpet, where seemingly hundreds of olive green plastic army soldiers were lined up in rows as if they were advancing on him to “take” the couch.  He said, “Look, Mom, this is really cool!”  He shook the doll above his head and shouted, “This is a huge bomb that could take out all of these soldiers at once.”  With that, he threw the cloth doll with great force, knocking most of the soldiers onto their sides.
He jumped off the couch, danced around in his Ninja Turtle briefs and tee shirt, and shouted, “USA, USA, USA!”
Ahh, that’s my boy?