On Starfishes and Community

Purple Linqia Starfish

The Linqia starfish is one of the most resilient creatures in the Great Barrier Reef. When a piece of that starfish breaks off, it regenerates, and the cast off piece also has the remarkable ability to form an entirely new starfish. So not only does the original starfish survive, the piece that it lost becomes another member of the community. The loss is actually a gain.

We see this in our daily lives, as well.

Companies send their best people out to open up a new branch to develop a new area. If done right, the company will see more market share, resulting in higher profits.

Churches send their missionaries off to plant new communities of followers around the world. The loss of a couple of hands from one church may result in the creation of a thriving community.

Our children go off and create their own communities and families. It doesn't hurt us that they're gone. We miss them, of course, but they go on to thrive in the world and hopefully, have a positive impact on it.

At one point in time, the Linqia population grew so large that they were deemed a nuisance that needed to be gotten rid of. Someone thought it would be a great idea to set off underwater explosions to kill them, but what ended up happening was the broken pieces regenerated and the population grew even larger. Eventually, scientists came up with a way to control the population of Linqia.

What was the one thing that killed this community?

Poison.

Poison comes in many forms. Companies, churches, families... they can all fall prey to some form of poison or another. Secrecy, lack of communication, resentment, anger... ignoring those potential poisons will undo the strongest of communities.

Posted on April 9, 2014 and filed under in the Raw.

Born in Tijuana

I was born in Tijuana.

Because every little Mexican kid took a picture on a burro

Because every little Mexican kid took a picture on a burro

That’s something I posted in a comment last night. I flinched when I went to publish it. I don’t normally tell people because it’s really none of their business.

Oh, and…

it can be embarrassing to admit.

I'm not embarrassed of the city I know. I'm embarrassed about the city others think they know. Of the city people immediately picture when I tell them that it's where I'm from. Tijuana is a beautiful city with a rich history, but nobody knows or cares to know. It's easier to believe that it's just the place that has been blemished by an unfortunate era and lots of bad press. 

I love her the way you love a grandmother, but I'm embarrassed of her escapades, like those of a drunk uncle that you don't want to admit you’re related to. 

When I was a kid, my answer to “Where were you born” was always me with “Did you live in a cardboard house?” People expect you to be a certain person. They expected to hear that we lived in poverty. That my parents didn’t have a good upbringing. That we all snuck across the border for a "better" life. They would never expect that my father was an attorney. Certainly not a district attorney. They wouldn’t expect that my mom went to the best private schools and had maids growing up.

They couldn't understand why I wanted to go back to visit every weekend.

As an adult, I thought I might be able to share, but the cardboard box questions turned into responses filled with stories about getting wasted and throwing up all night from bad tequila. I had those stories, too, so I was happy that we at least had some connection that wasn’t just cardboard boxes and poverty. Then the War on Drugs started, sparking the turf wars... and well, we all know the rest.

I got tired of defending the city and describing how great my life was down there, so I just started lying. I don’t know when it happened or why I chose it, but at some point, I started telling people I was born in Marin. I even wrote that down on my boarding documents for a cruise once. I didn’t have my passport and this was back in the day when you could just pinky swear and be able to get on board. I did eventually get to live there, but only for a few short years. 

I’m ashamed, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m ashamed that I was ever embarrassed to say that I was born in Tijuana. I want to play the memories in my mind for you to show you what a great place it is. The noise, the sites, the smells, the food, the people… it’s such a beautiful city! But people only know the poverty, the drug wars, the shacks on the hill. I’m sad that about that. I’m sad that I didn’t keep defending her.

The city I love is a beautiful place that you may never get to visit because you believe that you'll be shot dead if you come down here. At least some good came from the continued sensationalization in the media: the riffraff have left and our city has been returned to her children. And her children are bringing her back to health.

So now you know.

I was born in Tijuana.

And I couldn’t be prouder.

Posted on April 7, 2014 and filed under in the Raw.

It's Been a Year

It’s been a year.

A year since we got sucker-punched by life.

A year since we had to start itemizing all of our belongings... just in case.

A year since we were lucky enough to get a national ad that would have paid for a really sweet family vacation, but instead, went towards our regular monthly payments.

Since then, we had to sell my Jeep and the 914 that Mr. Jones and I used to take out on date nights. We had to leave our half acre and chickens and friends that would meet for coffee just because and our favorite coffee shops and beaches and trails and everything else that I loved that was so familiar. We landed in a good place, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we lost a lot. 

And I miss it.

It just hit me today that I am still in mourning for the life we had before. I miss it. More than I want to admit to anyone… especially myself. It feels like there was this moment in time where everything was just right, and I’m sad that I want it back but I don’t think that's possible.

I know I'm being selfish. I don’t care. I had a life that I loved and now I don’t. The life I have now is good, but it isn’t the one I was perfectly happy with last year... when everything changed.

And for some reason, I can't stop crying about it today.

Posted on March 28, 2014 .

Lead with Inspiration

For the last month, I've been working with a group of people that are building a company. They are in pre-launch mode, so things can be chaotic and hectic and could potentially overwhelm the average person. But rather than become overwhelmed, these leaders rise up to the occasion. The one constant I've seen throughout the organization is the desire to inspire.

Inspiration: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something or to do something creative. Animation of action. Influence directly exerted on the mind or the soul.

Without inspiration, an organization withers away into obscurity. I worked for an organization that withered away not too long ago. The CEO had money, but lacked the ability to inspire. His laid-back, low-key demeanor was appreciated by some of his crew. I thought he was too casual, not really leadership material, but he seemed like a nice enough guy, so I took on the gig. Then I watched him turn the reigns over, meeting after meeting, to someone who knew more about bluster than the industry, and I knew this company wouldn't survive. The more I was around him, the more I was disappointed that he wouldn't stand up and lead. He seemed more interested in the tax breaks than actually growing a business. I was relieved when my position was eliminated.

Today, I was listening to a CEO from the same industry of the aforementioned laid-back leader. He had the same conviction and passion that I hear in the leaders of the company I'm working with today. I became increasingly frustrated to hear someone saying all the things I wished my former CEO would have said. I finally just burst out, "If he would have been like THIS guy, it could have worked!" The people on his team craved that leadership... that inspiration... but it never came.

Inspiration isn't something you can purchase. It has to be given and received. It is born of a passionate soul and is transferred through passionate leaders with words and actions to a group of individuals, influenced by that passion, ready and waiting to go out and be more than they were yesterday. It's a human desire that is sparked when inspiration meets opportunity.

And if a leader doesn't inspire, no amount of money will create the opportunity for long term success.

Posted on March 25, 2014 .

The hardest thing...

Pitch email:

The hardest thing about being a mom is looking as put together as you did when you were sans baby...

No, actually... that is NOT the hardest thing about being a mom. 

The hardest thing about being a mom might be loving your kid with all your heart and detaching yourself from her personal choices, knowing that you've raised her to be true to the spirit inside that guides her.

Or maybe, the hardest thing about being a mom is letting a kid be mad at you forever and never getting to be part of her life, wondering if you'll ever get to see her again, looking back at all the times things could have been different that might have made the present different.

The hardest thing about being a mom could be watching your little girl grow up into a beautiful young lady with the strength and wisdom inside that constantly amazes you... and knowing that one day, she'll move away to college and you won't get to hang out with her every day.

The hardest thing could also be having a sweet little teddy bear of a boy that is smart and stubborn and creative and impatient just like you, and not being sure which of the characteristics that you are allowing to bloom or fester will make him a stronger adult.

No, the hardest thing about being a mom isn't getting your pre-baby style back. The hardest thing about being a mom might be trying to figure it all out without your heart breaking into a million tiny pieces because you love them so much and you just wish each of them understood how much they mean to you every moment of every day... today, tomorrow, and always.

Posted on March 19, 2014 .

Feeling Tired... Good Tired.

A month ago, I had an overwhelming desire to Google "what is wrong with me." The times when I look around at the peace and tranquility of this little beach life... and still find some itching desire to run away.

Then I got a phone call. 

I was still in my pajamas. I might have had a half a cup of coffee. I responded to a message form a friend and before I could shower and change for the day, my phone was ringing. Before the call was over, I was logging in to my new gig. I didn't have much to go on, but I did know what I was doing. The pieces I didn't know, I was just going to have to figure out on the way. I woke up the next day, still in those same pajamas, ready for another day of whatever this shit storm was. It was crazy and chaotic and hectic... and I was digging the shit out of it.

I only just yesterday started thinking about a weekend away. And even then, only for a fleeting moment. The desire to run away from the suffocating ennui has suddenly been displaced by being in a zone of creativity and excitement. It's not that I can't leave because a job is keeping me locked to a desk. I can't leave because there's a lot to do and learn and create and that's got me in this really cool personal passion zone right now.

I'm tired when I go to bed at night. But I should be tired. I should have spent every ounce of my being the day before to make me tired. And I have been. Between this new gig, teaching my kids, working on a couple of other projects, and a little Vinyasa Flow and maybe a walk on the beach somewhere in there to keep it all balanced, I'm dead tired when my head hits the pillow.

And that feels really fucking good.

Posted on March 18, 2014 and filed under in the Raw.

Homeschool Hangouts

homeschool hangout header large 960.jpg

For five of the last seven years, I have homeschooled my younger set of kids. I decided to do so after years of frustration dealing with schools with the older set of kids. When it came time to register my daughter for first grade (we sent her to Kinder Care for kindergarten), I decided I just couldn't go through that again. 

I wrung my hands so much, but the conversation that finally pushed me to make the decision for homeschool was a phone call I had with Mr. Jones. I distinctly remember where I was. I was sitting on the back door... well, one of the back doors... we had a lot of doors at this place... I was sitting on the side yard back door step.

From where I remember the shade of the giant ficus falling in the yard, it must have been mid-day. I was going down the pros and cons with Mr. Jones and when I got to homework, he perked up. I remember this because usually he just lets me drone on and on until I come to my own conclusions and then he sort of agrees or doesn't comment. He probably prays that I'll just stop talking. At any rate, I remember him perking up on the topic of homework. I was laying on the ground, letting the warmth of the sun on the cement soothe me. And then I sprang upright.

"HOMEWORK! I HATED the homework thing! I am not going through the nightmare of homework again!!! No, no, no, no, NO!"

Or something like that.

So I pulled the trigger on homeschool, and except for a few semesters of regular or private school, they've been homeschooled.

Now, I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I would say that after all this time, I'm qualified to make some suggestions or give some advice. After talking with another techie/bloggy/homeschool friend of mine, we decided that we should host a Hangout on Air, and call it Homeschool Hangout.

Clever, right?

So now every Thursday at 1:30PM Pacific, Jacqueline Cromwell (aka Nerd Mom) and I chat for about an hour, sometimes inviting guests and other times answering viewer questions. The last few hangouts were pretty cool. We had one with my friend Sondra of Happy Healthy Hip Parenting. She came on to share some tips about redirecting your child/student's behavior. And last week, we had another one of my pals on who just completed her first semester of homeschooling her two kids; one with a learning disability. 

So if you're so inclined, we'd love for you to come watch, ask questions, or share our hangouts to any homeschool families you might know. We're looking to grow a community of homeschoolers on this Hangout and would love to meet and chat with more homeschoolers in the future.

Watch Homeschool Hangouts on Google+

 

Posted on March 9, 2014 and filed under Lifestyle.

Behind-the-Scenes: The LEGO Movie Experience at LEGOLand (NOW OPEN)

Today, Legoland California Resort will open a behind-the-scenes look at the real movie set of The LEGO Movie at its new exhibit: The Lego Movie Experience.

Last month, I took my son to the premier of The LEGO Movie and, the next day, to the press junket at LEGOLand where we got to meet the voice of WyldStyle, Elizabeth Banks. My son thought that was pretty cool...

but not as cool as seeing the set of the movie!

Here's my little Master Builder!

Here's my little Master Builder!

The LEGO Movie Experience at LEGOLand California (b).jpg
The LEGO Movie Experience at LEGOLand California (c).jpg
What does my little Master Builder spy?

What does my little Master Builder spy?

An ice cream truck... sort of.

An ice cream truck... sort of.

Personally, I prefer the coffee blasting vehicle.

Personally, I prefer the coffee blasting vehicle.

Imagine the road trips you could have in THIS baby!!!

Imagine the road trips you could have in THIS baby!!!

This was our favorite spot. It's also the place we had our age old argument of Kragling the Millennium Falcon.

This was our favorite spot. It's also the place we had our age old argument of Kragling the Millennium Falcon.

Here's my Master Builder at the dad's desk. Now he wants the same thing. Good luck, kid!

Here's my Master Builder at the dad's desk. Now he wants the same thing. Good luck, kid!

Some more fun facts about The LEGO Movie Experience at LEGOLand California:

  • It took LEGO Master Builders 5 weeks to design models that make up the worlds that appear in Finn’s basement in the film.
  • It took a team of 10 LEGO Master Builders 2,000 hours (full-time over 5 weeks) to build all of the models.
  • The finished models contain approximately 1.5 million LEGO bricks and elements.

There's also a giant model of the movie logo on property. It took two weeks to design and four Master Builders spent about 220 collective hours putting it together. Pretty impressive. What's not impressive? I didn't get a shot of it. Next time...

Photo Essay: Abandoned House in the Hills

I've written before that I love taking random drives... turning down streets or trails that look interesting just to see where they lead. Last week, I was driving around an Ensenada neighborhood called Chapultepec. 

My mission that day was to take a picture of myself in the Land Cruiser for a friend's blog about people and their cars. I wanted to use a spot with a scenic view of Ensenada behind me. I thought we could get a decent shot on a little turnout that I saw on a recent hike in Fraccionamento Chapultepec, so we headed up there.

The way to get to Fraccionamento Chapultepec is to drive to the north end of Segunda and go straight up a steep hill, and then left up another steep hill. The turnoff I was thinking of is at the top, in front of a gated development guarded by a pompous little man that threatened to call the police if we didn't move. After taking a look at the angle and realizing there wasn't much of a shot to take, we drove away, leaving the angry little guard to his regular duties. We backtracked down the hill about half a mile before resuming our climb up another hill to see the other side of Fraccionamento Chapultepec. We found a decent spot and took the picture.

Then we decided to do a little exploring.

We saw some beautiful homes. The houses range in styles. Some were Spanish haciendas complete with bougainvillea flowing over the entrances. A few looked like Tuscan manses, tall and austere. And then others were minimalist modern, graced with elegant straight lines. Even the lot sizes seemed random. Some houses were on three lots, while others were squeezed into a leftover pie shaped piece of land at the end of a culdesac. The fronts of the homes were sometimes hiding multiple levels of terraces that traversed the steep hills downward.

We eventually came upon an abandoned property that was so interesting to me. The vegetation was overtaking parts of the house. Piles of debris had been swept up into small mounds. Looking through where the windows once were, we could see murals and graffiti on the remains of the plaster walls. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. The front gate was open, so naturally, I went in.

This is what I found:

Abandoned House - mural hide the bones.jpg
Abandoned House - stairs up.jpg
Abandoned House - room after room.jpg
Abandoned House - spiraling down.jpg
Abandoned House - mural lady in the sky.jpg
Abandoned House - view of the bay.jpg
Abandoned House - yard.jpg
Abandoned House - pool.jpg

Walking through the property, I tried to imagine it in its full glory. Before the fire. Before it was gutted of every copper wire. Before it had been used as a secret party place. We wondered who it belonged to and why they decided that it was just too much trouble to restore. That's the thing about abandoned homes. They beg you to tell their story, but there are so many more questions than answers. Like the mural in the first image says: 

The floorboards hide the bones.

 

All images shot with Nokia Lumia 1520

Posted on February 12, 2014 and filed under in the Raw.