Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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Finally I Can Yearn for the Good Old Days

in lineGenerally speaking, I am not one to pine for the good old days – way back when life was easier in the early to mid 1980’s (way back then).  I like to think at least I am someone who embraces life today and cherishes the moment.  But after taking 16.5 to register for driver’s ed, finally I can yearn for the good old days.

Perhaps because we were recently talking about it, or perhaps I just remember – but the fact that there was nothing momentous about my registering for driver’s ed.  That’s a stark contrast to the 90 minutes we spent tonight getting the deed done.

Way back in the old days of 1984 (or maybe it was early 1985) I took a form a check and walked up to the office at the school where I took driver’s ed and I was done.  Tonight, we walked into the high school up the road, and there was easily 75 kids (and assorted parents) on a line snaking through the front hallway and down an adjoining corridor.

There were two women in the school’s office taking checks and forms – and writing (as in pen to paper) names on lists.  One of the parents commented that in 2016, there should be a better way…

Yeah I thought, they could do it like they did way back in 1984.  It wasn’t an event.  It really should not have been memorable.  In contrast I suppose it will be.

So, finally I can yearn for the good old days.  The days when putting pen to paper and handing in a check wasn’t an evening out – it was just another stop along the way.

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A Few Quiet Moments

A Few Quiet MomentsAlthough it wasn’t by (my) design – I had the house to myself last night.  But it’s a few quiet moments this morning – while the girls are sleeping upstairs that seems more relaxing to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little better rested this morning.  Maybe it’s because I’m not in a flurry of text messages with the girls over who is where and when they are coming home….

Or maybe it’s because I tend to be a morning person (now).

There was a time when I was able to sleep well past 10 in the morning.  Now sleeping to 830 is sleeping in for me.  But that time has become some of the most productive of the day for me.

Whether I am out getting the weekly food shopping done, getting to the gym, heading out to the trails for a bike ride or a run – or simply catching up – getting a few quiet moments in the day isn’t so bad.

Despite having those moments last night – there is no way to gauge the productivity as I sat on the couch watching Chopped and hockey.

So, coffee at my side I get some writing done here and on a few work projects (even on a Sunday) and try to figure out how else to make use of a few quiet moments – before getting into the crux of the day.

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My Summer School

summer schoolWhile it’s not quite time to start preparing to go back to school here, with about two weeks of summer vacation left for my girls, I can look back at all that I learned over the last eight weeks.  As they get ready to go back to school, my summer school is coming to a close.

Lesson one was (and as if this writing is) 16.0’s lifeguard career at a semi-local water park.  Forgetting the driving and scheduling that I ended up jumping through – I can honestly say I am proud of the work ethic she has shown this summer.  It’s clear to me work ethic is a learned trait.  I saw my mother work hard to provide a home for her three children – and I’ve tried to emulate that.  From my days at Valley Caterers (perhaps even before that when I was delivering newspapers) through my career.

I’m pretty sure my girls have seen how hard I work to make sure they have a happy home to live in – OK, sometimes I remind them too.  They don’t get everything they ask for – but they know that nothing comes without work, and that is a trait 16.0 has shown this summer.

Lesson two came just this week when 13.5 had her orientation for high school.  I have to admit, having them both on the same school schedule will help me.  But 13.5 got into the orientation and took it seriously.  She even surprised me by jumping into fall athletics at the school (she tried out for and made the tennis team).  For her, this is a whole new approach to school – being active and eager.  We’ll have to go over to the school next week to get her into an art class she really wants to take (another sign of her taking an active interest in her education).

I spent a lot of time with her over the last 12 months talking about taking a new approach – no long lectures, no screaming matches.  Just timed conversations that seemingly worked.

Lesson three was also last week when 16.0 took a week off from lifeguarding to return to Camp Good Grief as a volunteer counselor.  This was something I introduced the girls to about five years ago as a way to be able to talk about the loss of their mother.  Both have said their years there were good – and I’m so thrilled 16.0 feels the need to give back a week to help other kids overcome an obstacle they’ve dealt with.

Two weeks to go until first bell at the high school.  I supposed that’s also two weeks to go until my summer school is out.

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Snap Decisions

Snap DecisionsThis morning I was playing back a conversation I had with 16.0 last night and it finally crystalized for me – the toughest part (so far) about being a parent to teen-aged daughters is the snap decisions that have to be made.  The moments I’m talking about are when you’re in the car or eating dinner and a subject comes up – and you’d like to say give me a few hours, but the verdict needs to be rendered now.  A snap decisions, and then you have to live with the consequence.

It’s not a new subject to struggle with. I found this from 2011 about snap decisions.  Although this context was much different I think the key is consistency.  The decisions that are a bigger struggle are the ones that fall outside of the flow of the day-to-day.

The most recent use case was 16.0 wanting to go to a party with some of her co-workers.  She got into the car a little after 7 and wanted to know if she could go.  Honestly, I was not thrilled with her going – not because I don’t want her to have friends at work but because this was with some of the older people she works with, who are in this country to work for the summer and living at a hotel a few towns away.  So, knowing all of this I held my breath and told her yes – and she knew she would have to figure out how to get back and forth to the party.  (I dodged the bullet when she couldn’t get a ride).

In thinking about this a little more – I realized a snap decision – positive or negative is actually easier in an only parent household.  There is no good cop/bad cop bit to fall back on, and no worry that the script won’t play forward.

So now I kind of like those moments when I get time to think about something and make a decision.  That’s not to say it’s still not a chance to agonize – just that agony can be dragged out before I’ve made a decision – as opposed to agonizing after another snap decision.

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The College Visit

Campus.Tours_.One of the easiest ways to mark milestones in life is on birthdays.  I realize now at the end of last week I found another (and certainly the exhaustive list is not two) – 16.0 and I did her first college visit.  On a 90 degree day we wandered the West Village visiting New York University.

As we were walking between the buildings around Washington Square Park I could not help but picture 16.0 as a two or three-year old when we first brought her into the city – but now she’s a 16-year old-young lady walking with other perspective NYU undergrads.  Quite a difference – and a milestone I wasn’t quite ready for, yet there it was right in my face.

I started to look at the other parents walking along and wondered if they were having the same moment as me.  It would be surprising if they weren’t.

Almost every seasoned parent tells new parents (I can still hear the commentary loud and clear) as they are holding a new-born, “Enjoy the time, it goes quickly.”  Certainly it does.

I can remember like it was yesterday taking my girls out into the snow for the first time, the first time we got on a plane for a family vacation, the last vacation we took before Risa’s condition worsened.

Now there are new moments for 16.0 to share and embrace.  Some of them I’ll get to share in – some will be for her to experience on her own and share (if she wants) with me.

New chapters will be written, new milestones achieved – all starting with the college visit….

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What’s a Fax?

old-fax-machine1One of those moments happened recently – when “new” technology of my younger years was met by one of my kids with a question.  The item was the fax machine – and the question, “What’s a fax?” 16.0 asked.

After thinking about it some, I realized she’s probably never seen one, and even if she did – she’d have no idea what it is.  So I explained, “It’s a machine that could call another machine and transmit pieces of paper.”  I’m not sure if she completely followed my explanation, but it worked.

The exchange made me think about a video I saw recently on my Facebook timeline about kids today trying to fire up an old school Atari.

The quick history here is 16.0 had her wisdom teeth (all four) taken out recently.  They were growing in sideways and just beginning to cause a problem – so rather than wait until the college years and deal with it in an emergent situation, we took care of it now.

The recovery was a little slow, and rolled into the Memorial Day weekend – which meant 16.0 would not be able to start her job at the water park, so on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend she called in and they told her she’d need a doctor’s note and gave her a fax number.  Getting the note was only half the problem – as there are not many fax machines around.

It did make me think about the early days of fax machines (and the early days of my career) at WRKL radio in Rockland County, NY.  Back then, the fax machine used a roll of paper – which apparently was pretty expensive.  The local police and district attorney would fax over press releases – and the general manager of the radio station would bring them to us in the newsroom and tell us how much each story cost the station in fax paper.

The last time I can recall using a fax machine was in the early 2000’s and at that point, the fax machine was only inbound – there was no way to send a fax from the device.

Technology itself changes so quickly – take something introduced to the market just 15 years ago, the iPod.  Look what happens when kids of the iPhone world try to use iPod generation 1:

“What’s a fax?” was today’s question.  I have to wonder what question my grandkids will ask…

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Spring Time Of Year Again

spring into summerEven though the weather here in NY is very un-spring like, given all the stuff going on it’s spring for sure.  This spring is going to unfurl into a different kind of summer here, as only one of the girls is going to camp.  Make no doubt about it though, it is the spring time of year again.  But before that, we still have to navigate softball, track, finals, packing and new this year getting 16.0 ready for a job.

I’m hoping I am not short-changing the packing this year.  My thought is since it’s only one going to camp I don’t need all the time needed to pack, so 13.5 is not yet started camp packing.  We’ll see how that goes.

For 16.0, she’ll be lifeguarding at a water park about 30 minutes from the house.  What I hope she appreciates (I’ve said it to her exactly this way) getting her to her job is not my job.  Hopefully there will be carpools and the occasional über.

In the meantime – both girls need to keep focus on the end of the school year.  13.5 blustered her way through a research paper this weekend, and 16.0 has already taken an AP test.

So, packing will start soon for camp.  16.0 begins work over Memorial Day weekend – it’s spring time of year again – lot’s to get done before summer sets in, no matter what the weather is like.

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Of April, Birthdays and (Over) Thinking

RisaThe sayings go March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb to yield way to April showers for May flowers – April is not quite that optimistic a month for me.  For me it’s a chance to mark birthdays and over think milestones – not all of which are happy but I suppose that is the fertilizer of my life’s may flowers.

April starts with marking Risa’s birthday (4/6).  I have to confess it is among the dates I could never get right.  I always knew it was the sixth or the eighth – so I was ready for the sixth and rolled with it.  The month also the marks the passing of my father (4/14) and a reminder of my mortality (4/24).

Into that mix goes the rest of life that we deal with – the comings and goings of kids, the planning for events, work, school and all of the other pieces of life.

Last weekend 15.5 had a couple of camp friends over for a night.  It’s a small group of girls that have been close for five years – and this is the first summer they won’t be all together.  Some (like mine) are working, others are going to different summer programs and a few are going back for the next summer in camp.

I took that group plus 13.5 and one of her school friends to a local hibachi place for dinner.  As we were sitting there and I looked at the girls (each of their faces glowing in the light of their iPhone) and realized simultaneously how lucky I am and wondered what if life had been different?

We got the crew back to our house and 13.5 and her friend went upstairs and 15.5 and her friends went downstairs – and I sat in the family room watching hockey.  It wasn’t long before 15.5 asked me if a couple of boys could come over.  “It’s on now,” I thought – but I was prepared for this (shockingly I’ve thought about it).

So the boys came over and joined the music and shouting in the basement and I sat on the couch – trying to figure out how to pirate the west coast games (I couldn’t) and managed to stay awake long enough for the last of the boys to leave just before midnight.

One of the thoughts was how would this play out in a two parent home?  Would Risa have handled this differently?  I’m pretty sure I handled it right and the kids all had a good time – but should there have been more rules? More supervision?  Would a mom and daughter be a different mix than a dad and daughter?

I don’t get to change the equation on the last question.  So as we mark what would have been Risa’s 47th birthday and the march of milestones go by – April birthdays and (over) thinking gets started.

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Hurry Up And Wait

Hurry-Up-and-WaitBack in my TV days I used to tell people the key to succeeding in the industry is adopting a, “Hurry up and wait” mentality.  Meaning you need to be in place and ready to go, and then wait for something to happen.  Perhaps that helped me years later when Risa and I were in and out of hospitals for treatments, tests and other ailments.  The hospital setting has perfected the, “Hurry up and wait” philosophy, “I’ll be right back,” a nurse would say before returning more than an hour later.  Clearly that experience was to prepare me for vacationing with two teen-aged girls.  Hurry up and wait gets to a whole new level.

Last week was winter break for the schools here so the girls had no school for the week.  What kicked off our southern California plan was I was supposed to be out there for two days of mandatory meetings.

Instead, I decided the time was right to change jobs (probably another blog post somewhere along the line) and no longer “had” to be in CA for meetings.  But the girls were locked into going.

So, we packed our bags and headed to Kennedy Airport here in New York.

Traveling with teen-aged girls is no easy sport.  Forget the non-stop need for Starbucks frappes and an unending need to wander through high-end clothing stores – you can never get them to be ready to go anywhere at the same time.

15.5 needed extra time to shower after the gym.  13.0 wanted more time to eat breakfast. Both needed three reminders to pack the last night we were there.

But they are young ladies now and I hope I treated them as such.  When they were kids I would wander around the hotel room and pack for them – but I figure if they want to be treated as adults (or at least not young kids) they should act like it as well.

And I guess for me its a continuation of the art of hurry up and wait – learned long ago and perfected over the years in many settings.

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