Lean In Together Family USA!

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I've been loving the discussion about gender roles in America over the past few days.

A whole host of dad writers I know and love are trying to get Amazon to change its parents program from Amazon Mom to Amazon Family, which it is called in just about every other major country where Amazon operates. It's a tribute, this campaign, to a beloved dad blogger who created a fantastic meeting ground on Facebook for fellow dads. Oren Miller died last week, but the 1,000-strong group he created is hoping to make the change in his honor.

Then there's Lean In Together -- the what-can-men-do component to the wildfire Lean In movement designed to foster equality in the work place and the home.

I'm delighted these campaigns happen to hit in the same week, as they go so very well together. But I wish Amazon and Lean In, "partners" in equality movements, would get on the same page. You can't have a campaign for equality with a partner that undercuts it at the same time.

Let's start with Amazon Moms. Marketing to parents but talking only to moms is, let's face it, antiquated. Dads. Single dads. Gay dads. Grandparents. Caregivers. Anyone who lives in the 21st Century and doesn't think it's right to pigeonhole the woman into the automatic caregiver position. I am seriously not a touchy-feely, everyone-has-to-be-happy kind of guy. But this just strikes me as icky.

I'm not upset that dads are left out. Please. I'm a big boy. But as a dad to a daughter and the husband to a rock star wife, I'm sad that the message is this: "You're a woman? Well here's home and baby products just for you!"

Why can't Amazon Mom shop for a kick-ass business suit? Please. Give that woman some diapers and shut up.

Which brings us to Lean In Together.

What can men do?

Stop throwing penis parties in the boardroom, for one, I imagine. Look around your work place. What's it look like in the higher levels? Yeah. Stop doing that.

Do more stuff around the house, sure. Care for your children. That's a given, right?

But also speak up on things that try to predefine roles. We're over that. It's bad for women. It's bad for men.

Is it any wonder that women have a hard time reaching higher workplace levels when so much of society has this built-in vision of them solely as caregivers? It starts with the pink toy aisle filled with dolls and vacuums and carries on into web sites filled with diapers and baby wipes just for them. Is it any wonder dads feel left out or perhaps do less on the home front when so much of society says that's not their place?

Amazon has yet to respond to the campaign and probably thinks it will go away.

But here's the kicker.

Lean In is, weirdly, a "partner" with Amazon. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it'd be great if they got together and figured it out because right now it doesn't seem like they're Leaning In Together.

One side says give women equality. The other says give them diapers.

 

Call of the mild

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We follow moose tracks into the forest. They're deep, deeper than any human can make -- a thousand pounds isolated on hooves the size of your hand and pushing down past snowpack and hoarfrost.

We see fox trails and ermine. There's vole tunnels and coyotes.

Snowhares. Squirrels. Ranch dogs. Wild cats.

In a clearing, with a guide, we light a fire and sit on snow benches. We eat s'mores and warm our hands by the fire.

"This is the best," she says.

Back at the cabin, fingers warming, she quickly changes out of her snow clothes. She dons a cowboy hat. She throws on her boots.

"I'll be at the main lodge," she says.

She runs through new powder heaps. Her toes make triangle tracks in the snow. She disappears into a pine grove.

She doesn't come down for dinner. She's got new friends. They play with a ranch dog and pour root beer on packed snow and bury their faces in goopy slush.

Later, when it's time to head back to the cabin, she'll grab her mother's hand under a sky riddled with too-bright stars and they'll laugh and I'll stop and watch for a quiet moment behind them and smile.

***

My uncle hitch hiked to New York City. My mom dropped him at the main highway and there he went. A trucker. A couple. A few days later he handed his resume to a secretary at a big television network. She had just told him there were no jobs but he handed it over just the same and turned.

New York City. What now?

"Just a minute," the secretary called.

He stopped.

"You went to Eastern? So did I."

I just heard this story. I knew he hitched to New York. I knew he met my aunt there. She had family out on California. Eventually, they'd both leave New York to be closer to her family. Many years later, my own family would head out to California to be closer to them.

How much turns on coincidence?

She went to Eastern.

He got the job. He was sent to cover the Olympics. He met my aunt there. She had family from California. They'd move there. Years later, my own family would ....

***

A friend I met at a community college said he could get me a good job. Pretty decent pay for college kids. Long, hard days, but actually pretty good money.

I started taking these big games around to corporate events.

Velcro walls. Human bowling. Human slingshot. Climbing walls. Rubber slides. Sumo suits that smelled like sweat and booze.

I was a high-end, well-paid carny, basically.

I'd go into a big red barn in Napa at the start of the shift and find a clipboard with my name on it. It was the busiest season -- Grad Night time, when we'd take these big, stinky games to sober graduation parties after the last day of high school festivities.

Ten or so clipboards.

Mine said Carmel.

That night, I'd load up the truck with a human gyroscope on a trailer and an inflatable boxing ring with over-sized, super soft boxing gloves in the bed and then meet a workmate at the school.

A long freeway. Artichoke fields. Coastal spray. Sand dunes.

I started setting up and saw her, the workmate I was to meet for the shift.

Turns out we grew up in the same town. We went to the same school, in fact. She was a senior when I was a freshman. I swam and played water polo with most of her friends. Her mom had briefly taught Spanish and had one of my brothers in class. They saw each other all the time at a grocery store where he worked as a bagger. She lived almost directly under a rocky cliff at a regional park where I liked to hike in with a book and a beer and read for hours.

I never met her until that night, when I saw her approach a fence, look around for a gate or a door, and then start to climb. It'll be 20 years next year, 10 of them married.

A friend said he had a good-paying job. A random clipboard assignment. Could have been ten other workers and who knows if we'd have just kept missing each other, our tracks crossing just out of orbit.

***

I see triangles in the snow.

A pointed toe. A deep heel in the new powder. Big spacing in the steps.

Of course she's running.

I follow the tracks to the lodge, to the horse arena. It's a fun vacation we're on. A dude ranch in the northern mountain country of Colorado. We backcountry ski. Snow shoe. Dog sled. Trail ride.

She likes the activities, the movie nights. I like the freedom and independence she feels here, opening the door to the semi-wild and venturing out alone.

The tracks. They're everywhere. The horse meadow. The corrals. The arena. It's like trying to follow those Family Circus kids, after they discovered Red Bull.

Each time, it seems, they venture more. I know someday they'll find the gate. The big road. The open country.

And just keep going.

I can't help but wonder where, which wild orbits they'll follow, and how, despite planning or study, schools or goals, they might yet turn on the randomest of coincidence or dumb luck; I can't help but hope that her own story will fall into place in a way that will make her stop dead under too-bright stars some night and be grateful for all the tiny little moments in so many different lives that made it possible to feel such joy.

U.S. Soccer doing much better with women's side coverage

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By now you know my gripe -- that the US Soccer organization short-changes coverage of its women's side day after day after day.

On any given day over the past year, I've noticed there are 23 or so stories in all on the main US Soccer site, and only 3 or 4 about the women's teams.

Well, good news.

That's changing.

Big time.

I looked this morning after the women's teams horrible victory* in England, and saw this:

22 stories.

14 about the women's teams.

A. Freaking. Men.

As I mentioned earlier after my phone call with the head of US Soccer communications, I don't need one side or the other to have unequal coverage. There are going to be times, to be sure, when one team merits more stories. World Cup years, for instance.

But day in and day out, the coverage should be equal. The US Soccer site is there to boost all squads, and I'm pleased to see they're getting the message.

*Now as for that horrible victory ... I'm frightened. Yes, the USA won 1-0 on an excellent Alex Morgan header. There was so, so much to love about the lead up to that goal -- the way Morgan Brian so perfectly lured in defenders and then passed to Lauren Holiday, who then sent in a perfect cross. Everything about that set-up was amazing.

And yet ...

The play overall seemed to lack an intensity so needed in the run up to the World Cup. You'd think after a 2-0 loss to France that the USA would have turned this into a statement game. But they weren't just flummoxed by England. They were flummoxed by first touches that were easily lost. They couldn't penetrate with anything except long passes in to strikers who just weren't there or couldn't keep up. In the 85th minute, high on new subs, England finally brought an intensity that had been lacking in both teams. Given a few more minutes, that game would have been tied, or even possibly 2-1 England. (England got robbed on a beautiful goal with an offsides call that was most definitely not offsides. Should have been a 1-1 tie, and deservedly so after those final minutes.)

It's weird. USA lost to France last Sunday 2-0 but actually played so much better in that game. More chances that just didn't quite make it into the net, and an intensity that was lacking in the England game.

At this point, with only 8 games left before the Cup begins ... I don't know what to make of this squad. To be sure, injuries have plagued us over the past year and continue to do so. Our solid starters are out or just returning. We're not quite sure yet what our starting 11 will look like. Let's hope they get at least 4 or 5 of the remaining 8 games as a tight-knit, starting 11 squad to figure it out ...

Because at this point, it's looking like France's World Cup to lose.