Monday, August 03, 2015

How we couldn't take the kids, day two

In Rome, by the Vatican, a conversation with the kids that didn't happen because they weren't here, but would have if they were:

Luke: Who is the pope?

Mommy: He lives here.

Luke: What does he look like?

Mommy: He has a pointy hat and a cape.

Wyatt: Does he have superpowers?

Mommy: He's very holy, but he's like us.

Wyatt: Does he have a cool car?

Daddy: Yes, and if anyone tries to hurt him, the car will protect him.

Luke then gasps.

Mommy: What, sweetie?

Luke: Mommy, is the pope Batman?

Daddy: Yes.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

How we couldn't take the kids, day one

In Rome, a conversation with the kids that didn't happen because they weren't here, but would have if they were:

Wyatt: Daddy, I'm hungry.

Daddy: Good. We're going to a highly recommended restaurant called Perilli. They have the best carbonara in Rome, and possibly, the world.

Luke: Daddy, look, McDonald's,

Mommy: No, we're not going to McDonald's.

Luke: I want a Minions Happy Meal.

Wyatt: Do they have a Minions Happy Meal at Pernelli's?

Daddy: No, it's Perilli, and like I said, they have the best carbonara you'll ever eat.

Wyatt: But do they have a Minions Happy Meal?

Mommy: No.

Luke: But I want a Minion's Happy Meal!

Wyatt: Me too. No fair.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

how i will always miss my uncle mike

Michael K. Phillips

Practiced Law and Acts of Kindness

Mike Phillips kept everything he held dear.  There was a shoebox inside his house with memorabilia from his 55 years on this planet. There were Confirmation notices, report cards, news clippings, photos. None of them were about him. They were all about his brothers. He was proud to be a part of his family.

As much as he kept everything he held dear, Mike Phillips also gave to those he held dearest. He offered his time, thoughts and full effort to his friends and family.  He took those closest to him on trips to all points on the globe. He was the first to help out whenever someone needed it, always going beyond what anyone could expect. He was there for you, your personal guardian angel.

But it didn't stop there. Mike Phillips was also generous to those he barely knew. He gave out legal advice to acquaintances who couldn't afford a lawyer.  He would overtip workers that were doing a great job or he felt could use something extra. He even handed out gifts to complete strangers. He was the extraordinary person you couldn't wait to tell your friends about.

Mike once said, "Little acts of kindness, small courtesies and displays of love and respect are so important. In relationships, the little things are the big things." He knew how to make those little things mean so much, at just the right time, to just the right person. He used the resources available to him to make the lives around him better, fuller, happier. That's what made him Mike. He never thought of himself. He was as selfless as anyone can be. And he never ever asked for anything in return.

Mike Phillips was born and raised in his beloved San Francisco, the youngest son of Edward and Gloria, the brother of Daniel, Patrick and Dennis. They didn't have much growing up in the Sunset District, but they had each other. He was taught, through words and actions, to always give back even if there wasn't much to start with.

He was a special little prodigy, excelling throughout his education, from St. Gabriel Grammar School through St. Ignatius College Preparatory, during which he was invited to compete in the high school national debate competition.  He then went on to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied economics and eventually the University of California, Hastings College of Law.

His personal endeavors fueled his fire. His professional life provided the spark.

He was a nationally recognized tax attorney with a specialty in 1031 exchanges and was considered an expert on the subject.  He authored several significant tax articles and treatises. He counseled clients during his tenure at San Francisco-based Pacific Realty Exchange, a partnership he established with Gregory J. Rocca in 1988. He taught many graduate seminars and classes at the New York University Institute on Federal Taxation, the National Business Institute and the National Real Estate Development Center.  He was a lecturer and writer for the Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) and was a member of the California Star Bar Sections on Taxation and Estate Planning.  Mike began his career in the tax division of Arthur Andersen & Co. in San Francisco and then in the Office of Federal Tax Services in Washington, D.C.

One of Mike's greatest skills was the ease of which he could simply and clearly explain complicated issues and concepts. That, along with his tremendous sense of humor, attracted a roster of high-profile clients, including several of San Francisco's well-known restaurants and some of the city's long-established families. He became their attorney and their friend, one who was trusted and beloved from generation to generation. He had that way about him.

He was a generous benefactor to several charities. And when they asked, he also donated his legal services to them.

Mike was truly a friend to San Francisco.

He enjoyed dancing, sports, music, sharing his well-researched and thought-out opinions, riding roller coasters, telling riddles, watching movies, reading and learning about his varied interests and getting the most he could out of every single day.

He was a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a lawyer, an art collector, a mystery story writer, a faculty member, a speaker at conferences, a staple in the gay and lesbian community, a confidant, a genius, a friend. He was anything and everything to those close to him. And to those he just met, he was something wonderful.

Mike died suddenly and unexpectedly in his home. He is survived by his two brothers, Daniel and Patrick, and his sisters-in-law Candyce and Florence.  He is survived by a robust family including his nieces and nephews Shannon, Aaron, Lisa, Roddy, Vanessa, Steve and Jenn. He is survived by all the friends he has made throughout his life. He is survived by the countless stories about him that everyone will continue to share. He is survived by his expertise and thought leadership in his field. He is survived by everyone within San Francisco's gay and lesbian community as a leader, friend and champion.

He survives because the legacy of his kindness, generosity and love will live on.

Mike Phillips will be dearly missed.

A celebration of Mike's life will be held at 6pm on May 22nd. For addition information, please contact  In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 18, 2014

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fooling Your Stress With Data

I am on the top of Homewood on a late afternoon in early March. It's barely above freezing and the air stings me with every breath. The only warmth I can feel comes from what I hope is my sweat. This is my last run of the day. I am brutally tired.

Did I mention that I'm on Black Diamond? Or, as everyone else calls it, Ego Alley? And that it's my first time? Good, because I'm keeping it all out of my mind.

My legs are weak. My goose is bumping. 

My stress should be like this.

And yet, I am confident, for I have the data.

I am the next Jonny Moseley.

Yesterday, I did some trail runs on the slopes, progressing from easy to challenging each time up. I noted, throughout the day, that my heart was racing harder and harder, that I was working extra time, and by the time I hit my cabin, I just wanted to do this.

What I also did was wear my Basis Watch. It's a fitness band that reads not only my steps and calories but also my heart rate, perspiration and skin temperature. So I'm not only getting a read on how I'm pushing myself but also, and somewhat more importantly, how my body is reacting. It's telling me how healthy I am.

And you know what? My health was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was. My stress was my biggest obstacle and, in reality, it wasn't such a big deal.

Meaning, when I thought my heart was doing this:

My Basis told me that my heart rate was actually this:

When I thought I was overheating like this:

I was actually more like this:

I can get into the data (and there's tons on the site to sift through), but what I learned is that when I felt like I was stressed, I tend to exaggerate how my body is reacting to the world around me. I'm actually fine, but my perceptions are out of whack. And that leads to mistakes.

It's just mind games with my health. It's time to play a different game.


I'm not trying to be competitive. I'm not racing. But I do think that it's a good thing to set up a goal and achieve it while having fun throughout. I'm going to ski down this mountain anyway. Might as well see if I can take the difficult route.

I am now ten minutes down. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. I've been skiing for five years now, off and on, mostly off, and the truth is that I'm actually much better than I thought, if you don't count all those close calls. This is much more fun than my preconceptions thought it would be.

And you know why?

I read this article about dealing with stress and how, when you feel it coming on, to imagine that you're someone else. Someone successful. Someone who has the capabilities of dealing with anything that comes their way. Then become that person until your stress passes.

So I decided to keep telling myself that I am Jonny Moseley.

There's nothing this mountain can throw at me that I can't handle. Everyone is looking at me thinking I should get a medal for all this. 

None of this is true, but I'm a lot more confident.

It's just easier to believe this ridiculousness when there's data to support it.

So, in my mind, I am doing this.

OK. I'm probably more like this.

But I know I'm not this.

Because I know my body is behaving like this:

And that's enough to get me down the mountain.


I finish. I'm tired. I made it. I rule. I drink some hot chocolate and it makes me feel like this.


It's later on. I'm in my cabin. My Basis Watch is connected to my laptop. And I'm going through my results. Yep, I actually probably went a little overboard with the confidence part of it, but that's okay. It was closer to the truth than the previous me. 

The one that wasn't Jonny Moseley.


Later that night, I'm at Sunnyside. I'm drinking a beer in my honor. There's all these bunnies around me, celebrating their runs. And I can feel them looking at me, wondering "Is that him? Could it be? Didn't I see him at Homewood? No, it can't. Is it?"

It is. Today, I was him.

The bar stool next to me is a revolving door of random people. Each one concentrating on their order at hand. Nobody staying for enough time to start a conversation with someone with a story to tell.

Then this guy sits down next to me, He nods my way. I nod back. I lean to him and tell him that I went down Ego Alley today for the first time. He congratulates me, tells me that's a great accomplishment. He remembers his first time. It was special. And then, he asks me what I'm drinking and orders me another.

Nice guy. A delicious trophy.

Our drinks arrive and we toast to accomplishments and the good health that comes along with it. The bartender smiles and waits his turn to slide a menu across the bar to us.

"Anything else for you, Mr. Moseley?"

"Nothing", we both say.

(You can learn more about Basis at And yes, the data showed that the author's heart rate surged the most at the moment when he met Jonny Moseley.)

OK, we've all been there. On the slopes. Barreling down. Shredding back and forth and back again. And each time down, we're not only satisfied with our run, but we know that the fun activity we just completed was really good for us.

Monday, February 11, 2013

how i can't believe it's been four years

hi mom.

it's been four years since you've been taken away from us. it really sucks. i don't know what i would have thought it would have been, but it really sucks, mostly because i see my kids, your grandsons, and realize how much they're missing without you in their lives.

wyatt's just a rock star. literally. he was a drummer in a band called "death explosion death" and a lead singer in a band called "reeeed" which is pronounced "red" but with four e's. anyways, he's a natural. you'd love the music that rockbandland makes with him in the group. it's right up your alley. you'd be his biggest fan and supporter, which is weird to say considering that lisa and i are his biggest supporters. but you know. you'd be right there with us.

and luke's really coming into his own. your heart just melts when he smiles his full teethy smiles, and mom, you were always the best at making us smile and laugh. he would have just been all over you and begging for more.

it kills me that the boys are missing out. it really does.

lisa and i are doing really well as husband and wife and father and mother. you'd be proud of us. things are tight around here and we're trying to be smart about it. i keep on making stupid mistakes - nothing major, but avoidable and harmless - and she's got such patience with me. she's the best thing that ever happened to me. and it warms me that you both got to spend some time together. she thinks about you a lot. that means so much to me.

i missed a bunch of things with you this year. wyatt doing gangnam style, for one. hilarious. (it's been months and i still can't figure out wtf that was).

and i think you would have liked "louie" - or, at least, you would have if you gave it a chance. seriously. you would have.

you would have loved bruno mars. wyatt loves him too, and i'll admit, i think he's good too. he's got a really cool old-school vibe to him.

we would not have stopped quoting from "21 jump street". this movie was right up your alley.

and there's countless other moments that happened when i wish you were still around so i could call you up and tell you about and watch you not be able to control your laughter.

but that's life, or what's become of it. i'm doing my best. i really am. i'm trying to make you proud. sometimes i might not be successful, but my heart's in the right place.

i miss you.

love you always,

your son

Saturday, February 11, 2012

how i can't believe it's been three years

hi mom.

it's been three years since you were taken from us. nothing's been the same. things have just been radically different.

i miss you more than words can convey.

so much has happened that i wish you could have been a part of. wyatt's growing up to be a boy you'd be so proud of. he's such an amazing kid, the right balance of sweet and devilishness that never fails to warm you up and he's proving to be the ideal big brother. luke loves him like none other. and it's vice versa. they're gonna be such great pals.

each day, luke does something new that i imagine puts a smile on your face. but at the same time, it pains me that he never got a chance to meet you. in fact, you not being here anymore is such a void in them that they'll never fully realize. lisa and i really feel that deeply. that's why i load up their music cds with songs and bands that you loved. if they can't get to know you, they can get to know what you loved. it's something of yours i can give to them on a daily basis.

i wish you could have gotten to know lisa so much more than you did. she's truly everything i've ever wanted in a partner, and you'd be so proud of her, the way she's grown up to be a mother and wife that everyone admires, including you. she was worth the wait and your paranoia.

as for me, i'm trying. i really am. it's difficult supporting my family financially and emotionally and being there for them. right now, at this moment, i'm doing great, but i fear the repercussions when work picks back up. i'm taking care of myself by staying healthy, eating great and running strong. and the kids definitely keep me busy. but, when you strip it all down, all i want to be is a dad and a husband. everything else is just extra. and that's when i'm at my happiest.

we don't go to your bench as much as we'd like to, although it's not from a lack of thought. it's always on my mind to go. you know how it goes with kids and a house. there's just no shortage of restraints on our time. when we do go there, it's magical, and i can really feel you there.

and there's so much we would have shared together this past year, like all the most disgusting scenes from "bridesmaids".

you would have worn out adele's album. i know this because i did.

and you wouldn't have been able to control yourself from laughing about this. i would have found a way to keep sending this to you to keep your giggles going.

that's about it. i wish i can say life is perfect, but the fact that i'm writing this ensures that it isn't. but i'm doing the best with what i've got, we've been doing the best with it, and i hope you're proud of the effort.

love you always.

your son.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

how yesterday i became a daddy again

they say that there's nothing more challenging than having a second kid, that there's a big difference from playing zone to going man-to-man.

i say bring it on.

hello, luke.