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First day of winter, otherwise known as the » winter solstice. The word solstice means 'sun stopping,' because the sun appears to cease its southerly trek for a few days around this time each year, before heading back north.

Pooh's Heffalump MovieThe exact time when the sun reaches its southern-most point = 10:47 AM PDT. Interesting how they can pinpoint the exact moment.

Today is the longest night of the year (most hours of darkness). Starting tomorrow, the days begin to lengthen. The seasons are caused by a tilt (23-degrees) in the earth's axis .. as we make our annual trip around the sun.

Of course, if you live down in the southern hemisphere, everything is reversed. Today is your first day of summer, with the longest day of the year. Summer solstice.

Consider this » the earth is 92 million miles from the sun (give or take a few mil). Let's call that distance » the 'radius'. We can calculate the distance of our annual orbit by using the formula for the circumference of a circle » pi x diameter .. which = 3.14 x 184 million, which means we travel » 578 million miles every year (around the sun) ..

.. at a speed of 578-MM / 365 days per year = 1.58 million miles per day, which = .066 million miles/hour, which equals » 66,000 mph (if my math is correct). That's almost 100 times faster than the speed of sound. We're bookin'. Better fasten your seatbelt. Imagine hitting something at that speed. Ouch.

The seasons remind us of the cycle of life .. rebirth, renewal .. that no matter how dark things might get, brighter days are coming. And that dark days come to us all.

The 101st annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade began Wednesday. It goes on every night in Newport Harbor (from 6:30 to 9PM) 'til Sunday, which is the grand finale. Saturday will probably see max crowds. We went last night (Thursday) and the island was hoppin'. Electric.

101st Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat ParadeThe boats are colorful and fun to watch. Sure. But the best part of the boat parade is simply being out among the festivities .. with a big crowd of Orange County people, who are all in a festive mood .. exuding the Christmas spirit. (And it's all free.)

All the houses on the island are decorated to the hilt. (One guy told me his electric bill was $600/month. His meter was spinning like a dang gyro.)

Some years the weather is freezing (by Southern California standards), being on the water, but last night it was downright balmy. We saw at least two brass bands, complete with tuba, playing your favorite Christmas songs.

The Bug brought along his scooter (razor), which worked well for getting around. We started on Balboa Island and rode the ferry across to the peninsula, where we played in the fun zone for a while. (I let him beat me at air hockey, 7-to-5, and then shoot a gun in a stand-up video game, where he blasted lots of villians.)

Of course we had to get some hot buttered popcorn, and after that, a light-saber from a sidewalk vendor, who pushed a dazzling cart surrounded by eager kids. What a great time we had.

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Have a special treat for you today. Earlier this year I spent my Saturday mornings (8 weeks worth) up at Chapman University, here in Orange county. There I participated in a co-parenting course called » Kids First (.. for a second time, both court-ordered).

The curriculum is designed to help divorced parents put aside their disappointment & resentment and focus on putting their » kids first. (Hence the name.) Excellent course, taught by seasoned professionals who really care. ($300)

Friedrich NietzscheMy particular classes were held in the same building where Chapman's Philosophy / Religion department is located.

[ The combatants, uh I mean parents, are assigned to different classrooms, as you might expect, to minimize the number of brawls. ]

Posted on the bulletin board outside the office to the Philosophy department was a large laminated poster that contained a list of the major philosophers throughout history, with a representative quote beside each name.

I enjoyed reading those quotes each week .. so much that on the final day I stayed late to copy them down, along with the name of each philosopher and their corresponding dates. I've been carrying around that piece of paper ever since. (Tho it's getting ratty.)

Today I finally transferred these quotes to 3 web pages (7 entries per page), and included a picture for each philosopher (which the original poster did not have). I also added a brief historical description to complement each entry.

Conditional Love = Manipulation

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An article posted in last week's NY Times has been gnawing at me all weekend. It cites a study performed by two Israelis & a "leading American expert on the psychology of motivation." The single-page piece is titled » "When a Parent's Love Comes with Conditions" .. or » "When 'I Love You' means 'Do as I Say'."

Conditional Love = Manipulation The article can be summed with the following quote:

"The primary message of all types of conditional parenting is that children must earn a parent's love. A steady diet of that, Rogers warned, and children might eventually need a therapist to provide the unconditional acceptance they didn't get when it counted."

Doesn't it seem odd that a study was required to determine that rationing of love & acceptance (like gasoline during a shortage) based on 'performance' .. is detrimental to children? Duh.

First, conditional love is not love. Let's call it by its real name » manipulation. And it's the worst kind of manipulation, cuz children, especially young ones, are at the mercy of their parents.

Moreover, they do not yet possess the skills necessary to recognize and defend against such insidious tactics  .. from people they're so dependent upon (for eveything).

Now, do you know anyone who enjoys being manipulated? Cuz I don't. Heck, even people who enjoy pain don't like being manipulated. Cuz it doesn't really hurt; it just feels slimy. [Speaking of slime & pain, refer to my comments about boiling a frog near the end.]

Not very difficult to tell the difference, either. Kids (who happen to be particularly sensitive) can spot a fake all-the-way across the coffee shop and will turn away .. while gravitating wholeheartedly to the genuine. You can actually observe this play out.

There are many things a parent can use as leverage to encourage (or discourage) a particular behavior. But love should never be included in the leverage toolkit. Same goes for affection & attention .. things too precious to be used as mere bargaining chips.

Withholding love & affection based on behavior is cruel. Sure, it might elicit the desired response .. in the short term. But the child will grow to resent it (.. as does anybody who's being manipulated). Used consistently and frequently enough, it will instill deep-seated feelings of inadequacy .. that may never go away. (You might even know someone like this .. with deformed self-esteem.)

Many times, when a child is acting out, I'd wager it's *because* he or she is not getting the emotional support they need (from a parent). That would be like telling a hungry child » "Stop fussing or I won't give you any food."

[ In the military, we had a saying » "The beatings will continue until morale improves." Same principle. ]

Whichever side of the great nature vs nurture debate you tend to favor, you always return to » the parents .. as the prime causal agent for how a child turns out .. whether it be on count of their genes or their parenting methods (.. or a combination of both).

We were all kids once. (Well, most of us.) So we all have many years of first-hand experience from which to derive our opinions .. of what works, and what doesn't (.. and what really suks). My point is, it's not rocket science.

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Horrible Dream @ 4:44

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Horrible dream last night. The digital clock on my nightstand read 4:44 (in big green numbers) when I woke .. feeling like I'd just finished running a marathon. Nothing like starting the day exhausted & covered in sweat.

Amusement ParkHaven't had a dream where I lose the Bug in more than a year. But they're the most terrifying.

We were at an amusement park (in my dream) .. riding this thing that goes around & around .. like a wavy roller coaster. (Metaphor for my life?)

As the ride concludes, the Bug says (urgently), "I gotta pee," and runs off, down the ramp .. with a bunch of other kids.

"Wait!" I shout. But his belongings are scattered around the cart we rode in. I quickly gather them up before hurrying after him.

He couldn't have gotten very far, but I lost sight. Lots of kids his age are scurrying about (happily). Soon as I exit the building, I see it's early evening. Warm & almost dark, but the grounds are well-lit.

As I call out for him, a boy tugs on my shirt sleeve and points to a man standing near the entrance to the ride we just came off. "Did you lose a boy?" he asks. "We have him upstairs." Immediately I'm relieved. Seems like a very nice guy.

As a side note, in my other dreams where I lose the Bug (at a campground, for example, out in the woods), I always go "upstairs" to try to find him (.. to a rec room located above the cafeteria at the campground).

But once I get there, I always find people who seem to know something, but refuse to say anything, or pretend not to know.

So this normal-looking guy takes me up to the second floor .. to a circular room directly above the ride on which we just rode.

We have to push a few boxes out of the way to get there. I think nothing of this (in my dream) .. nothing strange. I'm just looking forward to getting the Bug back. Nothing else matters.

Seems to be some kind of administrative offices up there. (It's always the second floor of a 2-story building where people tell me he is.)

When we get up there, the guy stops at his desk and pulls open a sliding shelf near the floor and takes out some toys to show me. But I don't want to see any of his stupid toys.

Then it sounds like he's trying to make some kind of deal with me. I look around and notice the place seems more like a storage area than an office (lots of boxes piled everywhere). My patience quickly expires. "Take me to my son, now!" I interrupt, shouting.

First Father/Son Bike Ride

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Embarked on my first-ever father/son bike ride with the Bug yesterday. We took a leisurely trip around the Back Bay (here in Newport Beach), a popular path where few cars travel. Gorgeous day, too.

Father Son Bike RideHis little bike still has training wheels. A bigger one* sits waiting in the garage, but he refuses to ride anything without training wheels. (* Miss Julie picked it up for him in Laguna last month.)

I'm in decent shape .. seeing I've been biking everywhere .. since my license was suspended in June. So my legs feel strong.

The Back Bay loop is 10 miles. So I expected the Bug to be tired afterwards. Surprised me when he insisted on hitting the trampoline soon as we returned.

Used to be I could tire him with a full day of outdoor activity. That doesn't seem to be working so well anymore. Ever since he turned 4 .. he's become impervious. I'm the one who usually tires first.

Speaking of tiring .. last night I slept better than I have in months. Been dragging all day today .. even after a triple-espresso this morning. I made some puttanesca for lunch today. That usually helps. (Carb-loading.)

The loop is mostly flat but has one big down-hill. Made me smile to hear him yelling, "Woo-hoo!" all the way. "That was cool, dad!"

Back-n-Forth on the Trampoline

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Bouncing on the trampoline with me yesterday, the Bug asked, "Did you have to go back-n-forth when you were a kid?"

jellyfish"No," I answered, waiting for his mom to come pick him up.

"Did your mom & dad live in the same house?"

"Yeah," I said, almost apologetically. [ Both my parents passed long ago, so he's never met them. ]

There I was, fielding questions I never expected to hear. (He's 4 .. and becoming more aware.) Caught me off-guard. Wasn't sure how to respond.

The Bug has been bouncing on that trampoline (and going back-n-forth) since he first learned to walk .. for most of his young life.

The neighbors, who have 2 boys of their own, generously let us use it "whenever." Consequently, he has become a pretty good bouncer. If I jump just before he does, I've noticed it launches him. ( "I get your energy, dad." )

While bouncing one time he told me, "Your hair looks like a jellyfish."

Later, he started jumping (pretty high) and touching my head, as I tried to avoid him. When he does make contact, I freak out, saying, "Ahhh, the jellyfish stung my face," which makes him laugh .. so hard it makes me start.

Many interesting conversations have occurred on that trampoline. It's one of his favorite things to do (.. up there with catching butterflies). And the neighbors are so nice to him. They say the nicest things .. pay him the sweetest compliments.

Spent a good chunk of the day in court. Not a good sign when you feel like a 'regular' at the courthouse .. when faces there become familiar. Wouldn't wish this mess on anybody.


Learning a lot (unfortunately) about how the system works. (Been at this for years.) While waiting for my case to be heard, I sit there and hear lots of other cases. So I glean things.

One thing has become clear » I could never be a lawyer, or a judge .. at least not in Family law, where things are very emotional .. and where there's far more at stake than just money.

Don't know how they do it. I certainly couldn't.

On that note .. it embarrasses me that we need to have somebody in a black robe make rules for us .. and tell us what to do .. someone who has never even met the Bug. Makes me feel like a big, fat failure. (Yet admittedly, the alternative would be worse.)

You might expect, when children are at stake, that the parents, even when they no longer care for each other, would lay aside their differences .. to focus on what's best for their children. And what's best for the children, you could argue, might include the welfare of the parents (who are caring for the children).

So it's difficult for me to understand why I have been repeatedly attacked. I'm not talking just once or twice, or 3 times, or even 4 or 5 times .. or even 6 or 7 .. but many times. (I've since lost count.)

I'm talking police reports & full-on detectives getting involved. Criminal accusations .. which would involve jail time.

Now even when these accusations are deemed 'unfounded' (as they always are), they still take a toll .. an emotional toll.

Guess Who's Back

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Two county sheriffs (1 male & 1 female) escorted me out after court this week. That's never happened before. I think they were just ensuring nothing happened en route. Keeping the peace. You know how ugly things can get during a custody battle.

Pooh & Piglet catching butterfliesI actually liked being escorted. Felt safe, protected. One walked on each side. They were very nice, professional. So I appreciate whoever it was that set it up. Tho I got some strange looks from passersby.

The sheriffs walked me to the edge of the property, where they watched me cross the street, then waved goodbye. =)

Kinda surreal, I thought, while waiting there at the bus stop (.. like this whole ordeal has been).

This time in court was very different. I hardly said anything. Experts testified.

First, the courtroom was cleared of all unessential people (not uncommon, due to the nature of the accusations). If you were there, and listening carefully, you might've heard the judge say the word I've been waiting to hear for years » enough.

Was doing good until sunset on Father's day. Then it got to me and the blues arrived. Used to resist sadness, fight it. Now I just go with it. Roll with it. Flow with it, like a canoe downstream. (Resisting and fighting just wears me out.) Been here enough times that I know the drill. No big deal.

yin yang There's a prophetic verse in Isaiah saying Jesus was ".. a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." So it seems okay to be sad, tho not particularly pleasant. I get kinda numb, distant. Feel like crying.

Been reading a book on Zen a friend gave me. Interesting ideas, perspectives. For example, here's a passage I found particularly thought-provoking.

The context is about rejecting the notion that anything that doesn't involve serious effort (and usually pain-n-suffering) is somehow unworthy or worthless. But the concept can be applied in other ways. See here:

Now there do seem to be times when verve & vigor are appropriate. Times when force works with, and not against nature. As Shakespeare said, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." [Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3]

But when the tide is not at flood, when mere brawn is up against granite, the effort to go against nature seems more stupid than splendid.

At best, one could say with the French general of the Charge of the Light Brigade, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." To call it splendid is to base one's evaluation of man on his animal strength over what is more characteristically human » his intelligence.

This mis-evaluation is perhaps based on the common distrust of intelligence on the part of those who lack it, as something tricky, cunning and weak-spined. But this mis-evaluation also reduces the standards of human character until they are more applicable to pachyderms and rocks than human beings.

For after all, is the final test of character really just in seeing how much suffering you can endure? Your ability to endure depends on how insensitive you are. But being human is about, above all, being sensitive. And this means, the measure of character becomes, among other things, the quality rather than the quantity of your suffering.

Woke at Midnight

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Woke at midnight .. to a disturbing dream. (Didn't get back to sleep 'til 3:30.) Mighta had something to do with the call I received yesterday .. from a detective at Newport Beach PD. (The numbers of several detectives are programmed into my cell .. all of whom contacted me first.)

Or maybe it was the Restraining Order I got last week (my 3rd) .. that's preventing me from seeing my son. This stuff is emotionally exhausting.

Today's word-of-the-day » unfounded. Why do I feel like I've been here before? Must be having a dang déjà vu (again).

In my years of dealing with the legal system (none of which I would characterize as particularly pleasant), it has been my experience that detectives are the best at getting to the bottom of things.

One of the first things I do when being interviewed by a detective is to volunteer to take a lie-detector (polygraph) test .. if it will help them determine my innocence .. that I have NOT done the horrible things I am accused of (yet again). I volunteer to stay for however they like, and to answer whatever questions they deem appropriate.

My friends are all incensed by a sense of injustice. I am too sad (for our son) to feel angry. He is being dragged before many different people at various facilities, where they're pulling down his pants and photographing his private parts .. before asking him disturbing questions.

Stories like Finding Nemo, where a dad crosses an entire ocean, battling sharks & other monsters, in order to be there for his son .. I know where those stories come from. I know that ocean. (Seems like it never ends.)

Where are my boots?

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The Bug woke extra early this morning. I was kinda hoping he'd sleep-in cuz I stayed up late last night, long after he'd fallen asleep. But no matter, he said, "I wanna watch Harold."

Muddie BootzSo I put on Harold, fixed him some chocolate milk & Cheerios, and figured it was a good time to grab a quick shower.

Few minutes later he came in and says (excitedly), "It's raining, dad!" .. which is kinda a big thing here is SoCal, where it rains so rarely.

Next thing I know, he returned with an urgency, announcing » "I gotta go poops" .. and proceeds to fill the bathroom with a wonderful aroma .. that can only be fully appreciated by those whose sinuses have been opened by the steamy mist of a hot shower. (The joys of fatherhood.)

Before running out again he says (excitedly), "I'm doing the trench!"

The trench is a ditch we dug yesterday .. some 10-feet long and a shovel's width wide/deep .. that we filled with water to make a » trench. In other words, you could substitute the word 'mud' for trench.

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