Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Win Free Registration to Latino Dad Summit!


Have you heard about the Latino Dad Summit? Have you read my introductory post, "Who is Latino Dad?" Are you a Latino Dad, or do you have one in your life?

If any of these things sound interesting to you, please join us for the first ever Latino Dad Summit. Click the link for the schedule for this one-day only summit discussing modern fatherhood, as well as sessions for content creators and influencers in the Latino Dad space.

But hey, I mentioned free registration. Yes! Check this link on how you can win a ticket to attend Latino Dad for free with this Rafflecopter giveaway. I am giving away two free registrations this week!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why Go to NFL Training Camp?

It has almost never occurred to me to attend an NFL training camp practice. I've been a 49er fan for as long as I can remember. I really like football. I've been the commissioner of the same fantasy football league for 14 years. I like going to games. I spend most Sundays watching football. Still, the idea of going out to a practice facility that isn't really designed to accommodate crowds to sit in the heat and pay $7 for water has never appealed to me. I mean, what's the point of watching practice? Sounds boring and inconvenient right?

That's what I thought too. So when the 49ers sent out tweets, emails, and Facebook invites to their open practice this summer my answer was, "Yeah right. Never." Not three hours later my friend Daniel sent me a text:
"I just won tickets to 49ers practice on Saturday, want to go?"
I think I took all of thirty seconds to think about it. "Yes!" I replied. I did still wonder if it was going to be fun. I didn't even know where it was.  After finding out it wasn't in Napa (that's where the Raiders practice, duh) I was happy to hear it was at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara and not at the practice facility. I was even happier to read that the food would be free.

Seriously, bro. Free food.

OK, let's go.

Daniel is awesome and suggested I bring Buddy with us. I was excited to see a new stadium, and Buddy had been wanting to go to an NFL game. I can't afford that right now, so this was good chance to get him an NFL experience on the cheap, and for a duration (it was a 4 hour event) that he can handle.

The only problem we encountered is that the parking and traffic flow around the stadium were terrible. They had traffic cops out to help, but it seem like a planning issue that just wasn't addressed well. Other than that, it was actually pretty cool.

Why should you consider attending an NFL training camp practice? Read on for my unsorted, semi-chronological list.

1. It's not crowded if it's at the stadium:

YMMV but it's unlikely 50,000 people are going to show up for practice. The concourse isn't crowded, there are plenty of bathrooms, there's shade. Also, the Kid Zone games don't have long lines.

2. Free Food:

Maybe only terrible teams like the 49ers are doing this, but it was very cool. And it wasn't just the cheapo/terrible stuff. The sausages were legit. They also had nachos, pizza, soft drinks, bottled water and a bunch more available. The line moved quickly. You could buy beer/wine (of course wine, it's the 49ers) for $14 if you wanted.

3. Open Seating:

Again, a more popular or recently successful team may have their event fill up, not so in Santa Clara. We watched part of practice from seats we could certainly never afford. Buddy liked watching the 11-on-11 drills from up close. It was almost like watching a game. If you're in my tax bracket this is as close as you're likely to get. You get a good sense of the speed and power of the players when you're this close. Also, dude, look how cushy these chairs are.

4. Nerding out:

I actually enjoyed watching the punt coverage and 1:1 passing drills more than I thought I would. I was reminded that I like watching practice because you can get a sense of how each part of a play is broken down into smaller group or individual responsibilities. It's also great because you can really see differences in technique by each player. They run through the same drill over and over, which allows you to suss out what players do well, and what they're working on. If you're football nerd there's a lot to see.

5. There are chances to get closer:

A lot of fans were able to go down on the field to watch the end of practice. I'm not sure how other people got their passes, but we got ours because my friend complained about the parking situation on Twitter. Not sure why that worked, but his guess was, "It could be because I have a verified account." By hook or by crook, we ended up down on the field during the two-minute drill. That was very cool. The offense was driving towards us and viewing everything from that vantage point allowed us to get a sense for the size and speed of the players. At one point Jeremy Kerley ran an out-route, made a great catch, and his momentum took him right into our knot of spectators. A few plays later Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown while standing just a few yards away from us.

6. They're good to kids:

For this event kids under six got in free. The adult fans were happy to let Buddy stand in front of them, right at the rope that cordoned off our viewing area, so he could see. The security guards held their gruff security guard demeanor with the adults, but one of them was genuinely playful and kind to Buddy. He even made it on the Jumbotron again, making it his fourth time in four different stadiums. But the highlight was the players, who were polite at worst, and jubilantly interactive at their best. Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Jeremey Kerley were very accommodating to fan requests and stopped to chat with Buddy briefly while signing his jersey. Punter, Brad Pinion chuckled when I told him he was my favorite player. He doesn't know about my abiding love for kickers and special teamers. Most of the players were able to see through the throng of adults shoving hats and posters at them, picking out the kids and going to them first.

Buddy with the Niners top 3 WRs: Garcon, Kerley and Goodwin
Buddy being able to meet players and get autographs was a special moment for me too. When I was five-years-old my mom took me to some 49ers banquet she had been invited to by a co-worker. I have no idea who I met that night, but I know they were players, and they were really nice to me. I specifically remember one spending a long time playing with my stuffed bunny with me. I left with a bunch of signed swag, all of which was lost to time over various moves and the fact that my mom didn't value it and I was little. Still, I was hooked on the Niners from then on.

So if you've ever thought about going to an NFL training camp I suggest looking to see if your team is doing an event day. That's likely going to be the best organized day. If you don't live near your team, the practice environment can be fun. I wasn't excited about the idea of attending training camp, but I gave it a shot, and it was fun for everyone. I definitely recommend a trip for football fans who may not have considered it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

On City Dads Again!

I forgot to post this here, though I did share it on social media. I wrote this for City Dads Group and it published earlier this year. This time it's about my complete and utter failure to raise my kids bilingually.

Please give it a look. Thanks.

Raising Children to be Bilingual in Baby (Sign) Steps on City Dads.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#SAHDkitchen Healthy Taco Meat

Last year I was still as SAHD. I tried my hand at doing a cooking show on Facebook Live. During the filming my kids ran into the kitchen, which was fine. It was part of the whole schtick right? I'm at home with my kids, we expect them to be there. The problem was, Buddy was naked and it went out live. Oops! Here's the edited version with no waist down nudity.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Black Lives Matter Needs to be More than a Slogan

I struggle. Not like people "in the struggle" struggle, I struggle with how to turn my ideals into action. I have a Black Lives Mater sign in my yard. I have one in my office. I have a BLM t-shirt. I've been to some rallies and marches. I offered to help them with ASL interpreting.

I believe that Black Lives Matter.

But how do I show it? How do I live it? What do I show my kids?

It can feel overwhelming at times. I feel helpless. I can't stop the police from shooting people. I try to observe police actions to the extent possible, but I don't know what I'd do if something went south. I hope that I would film it and verbally protest. I worry that I would try to intervene and get hurt.

That's an extreme and unlikely scenario. How can I show that Black Lives Matter to me on a day-to-day basis? Because I believe that an important aspect of change is how we carry it through on an individual, person-to-person basis. Yes, history remembers the big moments, the grand gestures, but the impact of those history book moments is in how we behave towards each other on a personal level.

This is where this gets hard to write because I don't want to seem self aggrandizing. Coming up next are two acts of common decency that should be unremarkable. I am writing about them because they were difficult for me, not in the doing, but in wanting to do them. Let's be clear, this isn't, "I'm a hero." This is, "Why was this unusual?"

"What the hell are you talking about Berto?"

I'm, getting there, but first, a slight detour.

There's an episode of Mad Men called, The Hobo Code. (No, I am not comparing African Americans to hobos. Please bear with me.) In the episode, Don Draper remembers a hobo coming to his house when he was kid during The Depression. The guy stays for a day or so and teaches young Don to decipher symbols hobos use to communicate information about their surroundings. Don's adoptive father cheats the hobo, who carves the symbol for "dishonest man" in their fence post before he leaves.

A few months ago there was a knock at the door. We get a fair number of young solicitors, usually young men selling newspaper subscriptions to raise money for college. My long standing habit has been to say, "no." Then a young man came by who told me he was a Berkeley High student. He was planning on going to Berkeley City College. He was Latino. He was me. I bought 20 weeks of the Sunday Chronicle, though I wasn't sure it would actually come. It did.

A few weeks later there was again, a knock at the door. Outside were two young African American men. They told me they were from out of state, part of program selling magazine subscriptions for a young entrepreneur's program. The shorter one talked about his dream of opening a BBQ joint. We talked for a long time about their future goals. They asked me about my path through education and career. The thing that struck me was that they thanked me for opening the door and talking to them. I offhandedly referred to the BLM sign in my yard. "Yeah," they remarked, "a lot of folks around here got those signs, but they won't open the door when they see us." I was shocked, then I wasn't. "But this is Berkeley" I thought, until I didn't. I was sad that my wonderful, progressive, mostly white neighbors had refused to talk to these young men. I bought two years of Family Handyman.

It never came.

I don't know if it was scam, or if they were just young guys who forgot to file the paper work. According to The Atlantic, if it was a scam, it may not be their fault. I do feel a little stupid for buying the magazine. The next time someone came with a similar story and a similar pitch, I turned them away. I felt bad about doing that, but I don't have the money to be able to trust everyone. Still, when I look back the thing I remember most was that whatever their intent, these two young men noticed that not everyone with a BLM sign was willing to open their door to talk to an actual live Black person. Whatever the outcome, I'm glad I at least did that.

I have been stopped on the street and asked for assistance hundreds of times in my life. Most of the time I am genuinely too busy to stop. Sometimes my Spidey-Sense tingles and I make up an excuse. Sometimes I try to help. In the third case it ends up being a scam just often enough to make me wary of helping people. My default is, "no."

I was arriving home from a rugby tournament last weekend, I stopped on the sidewalk to chat with my next door neighbor, when a man pulled up on a bike. He was African American, he looked working class, or even below working class. Like a guy who struggles to hold a job that pays enough to cover rent and food. You might read that and think I'm a dick for making that snap judgement, but I know that look because he reminded me instantly, of my dad.

"Hey man, do you live here?" My front door was open, blocked by a dog gate, because the summer breeze is the reason we never needed A/C. "Can you help me? I just got off work and I need to heat these up." He held out two frozen chimichangas, that clearly hadn't been frozen in some time. He saw my hesitation, and my neighbor turned away. "Please man, I just worked a double shift and I haven't eaten. The microwave in the break room busted."

"Maybe you should try 7-11." I offered with a smile.

"I tried man, they won't let me because they say I'm not buying anything." He could see me trying to turn all this over in my mind. He never mentioned it, but he was stopped right in front of my BLM yard sign. "I won't come in, I just need these cooked. Please."

"What do I want carved on my fence post?"

That was the thought that finally tipped the scales for me. I took the food and headed inside. My kids were happy to see me. I said my hellos as I made a bee-line for the microwave. "What'cha making?" asked Buddy. I explained to him what I was doing and he scampered to the door. He came back. He asked me again what I was doing, and why. "We have to help people, Bud. It can backfire on you sometimes, but you have to do your best to assess a situation and see if you can help. I can help with this, so I'm doing it."

I was uncomfortable. I didn't want to go to deep into it. I was worried that he'd get the wrong idea and end up trusting too much. But I also wanted them to see, needed them to see, that we are duty bound to help the people we can help. Even when it takes us out of our comfort zone, even if we perceive some risk, we need to be able to assess the situation for what it is, rather than what we fear it might be. That's what we're asking of law enforcement. That's what we have to demonstrate to our children so that they can grow up with less prejudice.

The microwave beeped. I flashed back to the Star Wars Canteen bit, "You'll need a tray because the food is hot." I grabbed a paper plate, then a napkin, then a plastic fork. I brought it all out to the man on the bike. "Thanks man." he said, and then quickly rode away. I felt guilty about how satisfied I was to have helped.

Again, I'm not a hero. I'm not doing anything beyond what we should all be doing for each other. What makes this interaction in any way remarkable is that we're not doing these things for each other. At least, not enough. It's a sad statement that these small acts of decency, things that should be commonplace, stick out to me. I know it's a hard world. I know we're used to being wary, and we've earned that. Still, maybe you'll read this and take the risk to be just a little more kind, a little more helpful. Not just to African Americans, to everyone, of course.

But maybe a little more to African Americans who, as a society we clearly hold an irrational fear towards.  Maybe a little more because we can recognize and adjust for our inherent and unexamined bias. Maybe a little more because making sure Black Lives Matter on a small scale doesn't mean other lives don't matter, but it acknowledges whose lives are most at risk right now.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independent of Independence Day

I'm usually a big Fourth of July guy. I love the weird baseball uniforms, the BBQs, and shows of patriotism. I've long been the guy who organizes a cook out and dons red, white and blue and runs around with sparklers. I was always a patriot, even when it was unpopular growing up in the Reagan 80s in Berkeley. In high school I was a guest on a local radio show about patriotism. I was chosen as the "pro" side. I was pretty well savaged by the callers. Still, through Reagan and Bush I and Bush II my love of country never wavered. I looked at all the good we'd done in the world, while openly examining and admitting our many many many faults. I always stood for the anthem. I was proud of my family's military service. I saw progress.

This year is different. I'm not feeling it.

That's me in a 1987
MLB All-Star game jersey
and 1984 Olympics cap.
Last night we went to the A's game for the fireworks. I usually wear my Eric Chavez era red, white and blue A's jersey and cap. This year I couldn't do it. I wore black. When they performed God Bless America I didn't stand. I couldn't. Instead, I raised a fist. I was relieved that no on seemed to notice. Today, instead of my usual garb, I'm rocking a Colin Kaepernick jersey.

It's a complex time for me. I'm fighting myself every day. I know that our current administration is an abomination. The president and the jellyfish supporting him in congress are doing everything they can to make our greatest fears from the 1980s into a reality. So I'm disenchanted. I can't muster the energy to celebrate this year as I watch my country get stripped and sold for parts. The administration is compiling a list of dissidents under the guise of investigating voter fraud. My fellow Japanese-Americans see the specter of internment in each new executive order. Every other day I consider whether I'll go quietly to the camps, or refuse to be taken alive.

There's nothing original in noting that the most popular musical and cultural phenomenon in the country right now is a musical about revolution. I had been mostly ignoring Hamilton because I didn't think I'd ever have a chance to see it. I didn't want to torture myself by getting into a show that was inaccessible to me. The times I listened to parts of it I couldn't distinguish the characters enough to get a feel for it. Then a generous friend secured tickets, first for my wife, and then last week for Buddy and I. You can easily find reviews that will tell you all the wonderful aspects of the show. It's everything you've heard, and more. What hit me, and honestly scared me, is that it all sounded like a good idea. I could see the parallels between the political atmosphere then and now. It makes me intensely uncomfortable. When Hamilton exclaims, "Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is" I thought "YES!" and then was immediately ashamed because I wasn't thinking about history.

Buddy discussing revolution with
like minds in Williamsburg
I'm a Civil War history buff. The very idea of secession used to get my hackles up. I despise the Confederate Battle Flag and I have long considered those who fly to be seditionists. I seethed when right wing nuts talked about rebellion under Obama's presidency. I never, ever thought I'd have similar thoughts. I still don't. I don't want to see armed conflict between citizens and the government. I wouldn't advocate for secession or revolution. But for the first time I can envision a conflict being forced upon us. Even in the darkest days of W I always felt like we'd be able to fix things over time. I don't feel that way now. I worry that we are at the brink of the end of the United States that has been. Whatever we become, whatever happens next feels like it's going to be something bigger than any change we've seen during my lifetime. Godwin's law not withstanding, I keep wondering if this is what it felt like to live in Germany in the 1930s. You keep trying to live the same life. You keep thinking that everything will be OK and will right itself. You keep telling everyone that "they won't possibly let this continue" without a real clear idea of who "they" are supposed to be.

For some reason this feels like a dangerous thing to write, to express to the world. I don't want revolution. I don't want to own a gun. I don't want to fight anyone, ever. But for the first time in my life I don't believe that it could never happen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Standing with my Son's Weird Hair Choices

Poor Buddy has dealt with a lot of criticism of his fashion choices in his short life. Sometimes it's been because he's dressed appropriately for a dance class, but some dumb kids and an ignorant teacher don't think he should be taking dance. Sometimes it's been because he likes to try out non-traditional styles, like nail polish or wearing a skirt. One time it was because of me.

When Buddy was in pre-school he had long hair about half the time. Even when it wasn't "long" it was still often longer than other boys at his day care. When he was three and four years old he liked hair ties and barrettes. One of his favorite looks for a time was to do a top ponytail. He looked like a cross between a samurai and a 1980s valley girl. The first time he decided to wear this style to school I was torn between wanting to let him do it, and fearing for what the other kids would say to him. I thought about what to say as my wife drove me to my campus, before taking her and the kids to the base where she worked. As I was getting out of the car, I tried to prep him without telling him not to do it.

"Hey Bud, I think your hair looks great. But there's a chance some other kids won't get it, and they might say something mean. I just want you to be ready for that."

It was a total failure. I could see his face fall as I got out of the car. I knew I'd said the wrong thing. My wife called later to tell me that Buddy had taken the hair tie out as soon as they had started driving. He never wore a ponytail again. I had ruined it.

Luckily, I hadn't ruined him entirely. Over the rest of his pre-school years, he went through phases of wearing skirts off and on, wearing nail polish on all ten digits, and acquiring his own set of barrettes so that he could confidently say, "No. I am not wearing my sister's barrettes."

After entering kindergarten his clothing choices became more typical for a boy his age. He does sometimes lament that he can't wear skirts because he doesn't want to have to answer the questions. Since that day in the car, we have always let him do what he wants with his hair. There are times he has to remind me that he wants a haircut because I'm so comfortable with (possibly preferential to) his California boy surfer look when his hair gets long. This year he brought home a letter from school about possible lice exposure in the classroom. The letter suggested that parents check for lice daily for the next two weeks. Buddy wasn't having it. "Dad, can we just shave my head now so I don't have to do all that checking?"  Sure bud, whatever you want. A few days later I rocked a blonde mohawk in support of the Puerto Rican national baseball team's run to the World Baseball Classic championship game. Then I shaved my head to match Buddy. That was in March.

This week is the first week of summer vacation. The kids are home with me since we're all on academic schedules and we're still paying for our move. Camp Dad was the least expensive option and it gives me a chance to relive my SAHD days. We are all very excited. Yesterday I asked Buddy if he wanted a haircut. He asked for three stripes shaved on the top and sides. That was it. I did my best to not bat an eye, though I did pretend to not fully understand so that he'd explain it a few times and confirm that this is really what he wanted. I swallowed my instinctual "They're all going to laugh at you," and went ahead with it, doing my best to at least keep it even.

Later, we went to the playground and the results were predictable. It took about five minutes before a group of older kids (older enough that they should have known better) started in on him. He ran over to me in tears asking to leave. The adult who was in charge of these kids, who were part of some kind of camp at the attached community center, had them come over to apologize. That was good, but I could still hear other kids around a picnic table making comments to each other and looking over at us. I gave them my most stern, disappointed parent look and if you read about me being bullied at computer camp, you can guess that it had absolutely no effect.

As we walked off to a different park I probed Buddy about what he was thinking and feeling. We talked about why kids tease. We drew a comparison to his own behavior with his siblings, and how shutting people down just to feel powerful wasn't the way to live life. We talked about the difference between laughing with and laughing at and agreed that Lou's giggles when she saw him were the fun kind. I asked him if he wanted me to warn him when I thought he was going to make a decision that could result in him being teased. I told him the ponytail story and explained why I was hesitant to offer that kind of advice. He agreed that he didn't want me to offer that kind of warning.

I asked him what he wanted to do. To me the question was about what he wanted to do with his hair. Did he want to shave the rest and have it all evened out. He took the question in a direction I wasn't expecting.
"What do you want to do Buddy?"
"I want to be better about the teasing next time. I want to be able to just say that this is how I wanted it and then ignore them. I really just want to be me, and do the things I enjoy."
Yeah. That was a way better answer than if he'd answered the question I'd thought I'd asked. I was super proud of him in that moment. He has good teachers. He's finally at a school where he can come to that kind of insight. And I suppose we're not hurting as parents. I was inspired.

Later that night I decided that if he wanted to, we were going to back to that playground together and face those kids again. Together. I went into the bathroom and fired up the clippers.

I'm with you Buddy. Always.