Tag Archives: losing Mom

Given Some Perspective

I had a terrible day.

I don’t mean something went wrong for me as a person or that I came down with a fatal disease or that my kids screamed at me, or trouble at work.  I mean, try as I might, beat my head against the brick wall, nothing I did could change the course of events of the day.

Working in news can give you an amazing amount of perspective on your Constitutional Rights.  Now…before you run away screaming, thinking this is another Obama/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Carter/Reagan is destroying our country tome, this is far from that.  There are no political machinations in my meaning here, I’m not plying a party perspective here.  Today, while working with company lawyers, other journalists, and helping put a story together – and I know I’m supposed to be an objective observer, but I can’t here – the Californian Legislators stomped on the checks and balances system.

Yes . . . I said stomped on them.  Somewhere, sneakily, in the middle of negotiations for the budget, they snuck language into the tail end of two trailer bills – one in each house – that effective remove the rights afforded by the California Public Records Act, or CPRA.  More specifically, it tells city, county and local governments that they can deny the records request without giving a reason.  It would remove the 10-day legal deadline they have to follow to tell you when you can get the records.  So, in essence, the politicians can say the never removed the CPRA but in reality, they just removed the actual tenets of the act all together.  Now. . . they’re quick to point out that the state isn’t part of this, but how long do you think it will really be before a legislator sneaks in an amendment to this bill . . . that exempts the state from it too?

Let me tell you why this is important, before I get to the real meat of my post.  The new Oakland Bay Bridge . . . the fancy, multi-million dollar “piece of art” that Governor Jerry Brown said had to be prettier for the city of Oakland was put together and nobody had noticed that the massive, steel bolts that hold the pylons – the big ass posts holding up the bridge – were not up to spec.  In fact, they were shearing off and breaking.  That was before they even finished the bridge.  Nobody said anything until the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle did CPRA requests for inspection reports and information on the bridge.  It started to come out that more than a couple bolts were sheared, that the internal bracing was rusting and getting wet when they shouldn’t be . . . lots of problems that may actually cause, I don’t know, maybe a bridge failure down the road.

How many guns sold in the last year in Sacramento?  We did a story on that.  When this bill gets signed by Governor Brown, though, we won’t be able to tell you . . . because the cities and counties won’t have to give us those numbers.

A child dies because of his father killing him with a hatchet (it happened, not a hypothetical) . . . CPS had to give the station the documents showing they’d visited the family multiple times and the Dad had multiple convictions for domestic violence, yet the CPS system still placed the kids with Dad.

None of those stories, none of that government information or over-spending or what have you would have come to light without the CPRA.

The state’s response?  “We’ll write a constitutional amendment to fix it.”  They even sent press releases telling everyone how amazing it is they’re going to try and get the state constitution amended.  Never mind that it has to get written, debated, then end up on a ballot which requires a 2/3 vote.  Voter turnout for last election?  Under 15%.  No bill that people think might cost the city/county/state money ever passes, either.  Your rights as a citizen to find out why – for example – the city wants to take your land for some highway project and won’t tell you how much they’re going to pay will go away.   You can’t get it.  They’ll deny the request and you have no right to force them to hand it over under this legislation.

So I headed home, steam coming out of my ears . . . and I spoke to my 3 kids who are staying with their grandparents.  I heard about how they rode their bikes incessantly in the back yard.  I heard about the new towels and flip-flops they bought.  I heard how the woman Hannah, my middle child, befriended at the city’s museum is in the hospital and she’s going to visit.  I heard about amazing new books and the blow-up swimming pool system their grandma got.  I heard how being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house is ah-may-zing!  I heard how the cows came up to the fence and mooed at them . . . and how my brother’s dog Brubeck is just so smart.

I heard love in their voices.  Love for me, love for my parents and love for each other.

As dark as the job and the state and the politics can be, I spoke with three young people who asked, to a kid, after their dissertations of their day: “how was your day Dad?”

The perspective hit me, that I was taking personally something I was only a small part of fighting.  I smiled at the phone.

“It’s a lot better now, kiddo.”

Walking in Her Shoes

Today I spent a good deal of time with my middle daughter Hannah.

Hannah at the Who
Hannah at the Who

It’s not that I avoid contact with my middle child, that would be silly.  I’m a middle kid…so was my Dad.  It’s not that I avoid time with any of my children.  The horribly accurate fact of the matter is that I have a finite amount of time and I have four children.  Period.  Now, you may chastise me for having so many kids to which I’d reply that it’s really not your place to judge.  We had our children and the idea was that we’d care for them together.

But that wasn’t to be.  I wish that I had all the time in the world, even the time to do every tiny detail with them.  Instead I balance what time I do have between the four of them and most days I don’t do that very well.

The thing that touched me incredibly this weekend, though, was the fact that she shared with me something I knew was bothering her.

Hannah is built just like her mother but looks like her father.  Those aren’t bad things, she’s gotten a lot of the best parts of the two of us.  She has my hair, which is thick and dark.  I always struggled with it, but I’m a guy.  Every girl and woman I know is jealous of Hannah’s hair even though she, herself, takes little or no care of it.

But Middle School is an awkward time for even the most popular and beautiful of people.  For a girl who is already 5 foot 8 and carrying her mother’s bone structure I think it’s more of a struggle than Hannah lets on, most of the time.

Please, before I go farther, don’t take this to mean I harp on this poor girl for her weight, her appearance or her demeanor.  She was closest of all the kids to her Mom.  She was a kindred spirit to her, which means she is a lot like me and therefore harder for me to keep my calm and not get frustrated.  I’ve made her mistakes and don’t want her to make them, too.  The hardest thing in the world for me is to be quiet and let her make them.  Which I do, most of the time.

But this weekend saw her want two things: to start exercising with me; to lose weight.  Neither is a bad thing, but her reasons were veiled, even though I could see through the fabric.

“I don’t want to look like this for my Middle School Graduation,” she told me.  She wanted to get on my weight loss regimen, which is less regimen and more trying to eat less and exercise a little.  I’ve also started using protein shakes for weight loss replacing a lunch meal.  Hannah wanted to do the shakes.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hannah,” was my response.
But Hannah wasn’t deterred yet.  She told me her weight, which I won’t pass along, that’s not for you to know.  But she said it was too much for someone her age, and she’s not wrong.
“That kind of weight loss program for a thirteen-year-old, though, Hannah just isn’t right.”
“But Dad, I shouldn’t weigh that much!”
I had to tell her the truth at this point.
“Hannah, your Mom, your uncle, even your sister gained weight in middle school.  Unfortunately, you have the genetics.  But look at your uncle, look at your sister . . . none of them are suffering from it now.”
“But Mom was overweight.”
“Yes, Hannah, she was and I have to be honest you’ll struggle with that your whole life.  But bear in mind, Hannah, I was 60 pounds heavier two years ago.  I’m still 15 overweight, but here’s what you need . . . you just need to move.  Don’t come home and plop in your room and sit and listen to music.  Go outside, go for a walk, do things.  You can listen and move.  Movement alone makes your heart pump.  And you need to watch your portions.  When you ask if you can have more dinner portions, think about whether you’re full or just want to eat more.  I give you a decent portion size.  Maybe stick with that.”
She still wanted to do the shakes.
“Hannah, your lunches are healthy.  I give you a sandwich, a homemade treat, and most the time an apple or banana.  You aren’t getting too many calories.”
She looked at the floor.

“Hannah you’re not in trouble and you’re really beautiful.  You just need to wear more flattering clothes and take care of yourself.  Trim your hair, wash up, learn to hold yourself . . . nobody will know otherwise then.”

So today her sister took her out for new clothes . . . clothes that aren’t shorts and a t-shirt . . . and she looks beautiful.  She smiled from ear-to-ear and wouldn’t take off the new sweater and pants I’d paid for.

Hannah and her friend Jake
Hannah and her friend Jake with new clothes

I was happy.  More importantly, so was she.

She’s walking in her Mom’s shoes now, but I walked in hers for a bit. . . and took her for a walk.  She realized she needed to be in better shape, but is going to walk each day – just a little.

My daughter suffers from what every kid her age does – being a pubescent middle-schooler.  None of us, except maybe Brad Pitt, looked good at 13.  But she does.  She just doesn’t think so . . . and that’s okay.  Because I know, whatever differences we have, I see the beauty of her Mom and her relatives in her.

I’ve walked in her shoes.