Six Years Later – The Snow Day

Through the magic of Facebook, I was reminded this week about some updates made in years gone by about snow days.  As near as I can tell I’ve written about them for six years.  Now six years later the snow day is a little different.

It’s been a while since I wrote here – not that there’s nothing going on.  Maybe its the opposite and too much is going on and getting to the end of the day and then writing just doesn’t happen.  Today wasn’t too different, except during this snow day – I took time to think about the changes in six years.

Flashback to when the girls were 10 and eight.  Snow days were much different.  The day was very hands on.  There was likely a trip to someone’s house (or having someone over), there was the juggle of trying to do work and keep the girls entertained and there was the sense that the day would never end.

Six years later the snow day is much different.  Today really started last night after 14.5 finished her tennis.  I dropped her at her friend’s house with a vague plan of how and when I would pick her up.  16.5 was home all day doing homework and working on prep for upcoming ACT and SAT tests.

I spent the day quietly working (I think I had eight calls and a constant email flow) and making a big pan of lasagna for the next couple of weeks.  Completely hands off to my kids for the day – other than cutting off some lasagna for dinner.

Six years later, the snow day is really another day – it would be nice if the girls were at school, but we all went about it.

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Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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The Rigged Election Insult

rigged-electionsGenerally speaking, I try to avoid politics as much as possible in this blog – for a bunch of reasons including there are so many other places for that, there is no upside to being political sometimes and generally everyone has an opinion.  However during this election cycle, since my kids are talking about this a lot in school – one recurring theme bothers me; the talk of a rigged election is an insult to everyone.

Rather than getting into the politics of the candidates or their positions – I’d rather look at the sentiment of standing before the American people and telling them (with a mostly straight face) that the electoral process is rigged (one way or another).

It’s insulting to hear someone striving to become the president of the United States say our election process – which thousands have died to protect – is rigged.  It’s self-sustaining hubris to even take that as a position.

I live in a state where there is no “early voting”  In fact, I had never even heard of early voting until Risa and I moved to Texas in 1997 – and while in Texas, the state legislature there in what it said was an attempt to stop voter fraud enacted ID rules at polling places that have since been mimicked around the country.  The goal of these laws was to stop voter fraud – you know, rigging an election.

When I vote, I refuse to sign any additional paper other than the official registry.  That is my commitment to voting – signing the registry and casting my ballot.  One man, one vote.  In a couple of years 16.5 will be able to vote, and I expect her to follow suit.

But how does a candidate think it’s OK to say the election is rigged?  Because the don’t like what is said about them on TV?  That’s not a reason to claim I and everyone else who goes to vote is taking part in a fraud.  In fact, by my reading of election law in New York State would make me a felon – to knowingly cast a vote in a rigged election.  Is that what I am being accused of?

It’s a bad argument.  In fact, talk of the rigged election is an insult to us all.

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Lost Luggage

lost-luggageThere are times life prepares you for a moment – sometimes you just have to wait 22 years for that moment.  For me, dealing with lost luggage was exactly that moment and I think I got the preparation for it 22 years ago.

Business took me to Amsterdam last week for the International Broadcast Conference (IBC).  Because of the way work goes, I had to change my plans a few days before I left – so my direct flight from NYC to Amsterdam became a connection through Washington, DC and a change in airlines from Delta to KLM.

The good news is I made it to JFK in plenty of time, an easy walk through Dulles followed and a pretty smooth overnight flight to Amsterdam got me on the ground at about 730AM – not well rested but ready for the day.  The plan was to grab my bag from the carousel, head to the hotel, hopefully shower, change and head to the RAI Center where IBC happens.

Problem is my bag did not have the simple transfer I had.  As best I could tell it never got out of Dulles.

Twenty-two or so years ago, when Risa and I took our first ever trip together – a cruise that left from Florida around Mexico and back our bags were lost too.  That is the last time until last week my bags got lost.  Not a bad track record.  Of course in that time I’ve become good at packing the carry on and limiting my chances for loss by flying direct.

For anyone who’s had to face this you know the drill.  Fill out some paperwork with the airline and hope for the best.

In this case though, I am on business travel.  All I have for clothing is a pair of Levi’s I’m wearing and a golf shirt I packed to pull on once the plane landed in Amsterdam.  I got lucky in that my hotel was built as part of a shopping mall – so before I headed to the RAI Center I headed to the mall and did some shopping.

This is where the flashback occurred.  Suddenly it was circa 1995 and Risa and I were busy looking for underwear in stores on Key West.  Back then I remember regretting the things I didn’t buy the first day – deodorant, a second t-shirt, a second pair of socks.  That training 22 years ago prepared me for the day.

It turns out my big issue with this battle of lost luggage was finding a pair of pants in downtown Amsterdam that would fit on my American hockey sized legs – since they were cut for Dutch men who ski.

I failed on the pants, got the extra things I needed – and was able to learn from that lost luggage lesson 22 years ago.  Call it a win and move on to the next.

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Still Talking

Still TalkingIt’s been nearly a month since I’ve managed to carve out the 20 minutes or so needed to update my blog.  Not that there haven’t been 20 minute stretches where I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, but rather just finding the mental (and sometimes physical) energy to compose 250-400 words in a coherent order has been tough lately – but that doesn’t mean I’m not still talking.

Most of my energy over the last month has been focused on getting started in a new job.  Without really meaning to, I went from one really large company to another.  While the job is very similar, it’s very exciting to be starting out on a new path with new challenges.

That new path has included two trips to Atlanta (corporate offices for this job), Toronto (to meet with customers) and a few extra runs into the city to meet with colleagues and customers.

Now a month in – I think we’re starting to find the groove and get into a rhythm of work and balancing the rest.

The spring also brings with it the bigger track season for 15.5, the more important softball season for 13.5 (including the school team) and the start of obstacle course races for all of us that get sprinkled in.

In looking at the school calendar, next week is also the close of the third quarter – which means its time to start getting into the home stretch of school and get the summer all teed-up.  This year 13.5 is going back to camp (we’ll do some shopping) and 15.5 (who will be 16 in the summer) is staying home and working.  No telling what that means just yet.

So yeah, I’m still talking – just more of it out loud (and often to myself) than on here just because for the only parent – spring is the busy season.

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Living In The World We Live In

social media school threatShortly after I got both girls out to school this morning, as I sat down to plot out my day and finish a cup of coffee in came a call from the school district.  It was from the line they use for robo called – ConnectEd they call it.  At that time of day, this is usually an innocuous call – report cards are released, athletic events at the school, PTO fundraiser.  Today it was not the case.  Today was a lesson about living in the world we live in for my older daughter.

This morning’s call was about a “numerous reports” of threats to the school.  Here is the text of the message from the school principal:

Good morning this <the> Principal of the high school to inform parents of a threat to the school circulating on social media.   We have received numerous reports of a “threat to the high school” being posted to social media.  To this point there have been no specific information posted or brought to our attention as to where the threat originated or what the threat is.

At this point we have increased our security presence at the high school and have contacted our School Resource Officer from the 6th Precinct who will be reporting to the high school.

I like parents of all the kids in the high school had a HUGE decision to make on almost no information.  It was interesting to see how things unfolded in the parent groups on Facebook and Pinterest – and some ran for the school to get their kids, others pontificate about the state of our society and some offered prayers.

In a decision I made – which I am not overly concerned being reflective or not of the rest of the community we live in – I decided to leave 15.5 in school, monitor things (not via social media) and be ready in case something came up.  My thought simply is this is the world we live in, and we need to live in – not be afraid of it.

Similar to going to NYC amidst “heightened” terror threats or air travel during these times – this is the world we live in, and we need to be living in the world we live in.

While parents lined up (and complained on social media about the disorganization) to get their kids from the school – I checked in with our police precinct.  It was looking more and more like the threat was a hoax.  I don’t want my daughter to be afraid of the things she’ll face in life, I want her to be smart and confront them.

I am not a reactionary thinker:

A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society

And I don’t want my children to be.  I’d like to think I am deliberate in my thinking and hope to share that trait with my girls:

To deliberate means to carefully think or talk something through — it also means slow and measured, the pace of this kind of careful decision-making. If you chose deliberately, you make a very conscious, well-thought-through choice.

Admittedly, I did hedge.  I changed a couple of morning meetings to calls so I could be closer to home.  As the morning wore on and it became clear things had calmed down at the school I jumped back into the day as planned.  As I was heading toward my new office came the next ConnectEd call offering some further explanation:

You may be aware of a rumor that circulated yesterday evening, March 9, 2016, via a social media group message. After a thorough investigation by the <edit> School District, it was determined there was no confirmed threat to the high school or any school building within the District. The circulated social media group message never stated a threat was scheduled to occur; instead, it consisted of multiple parties asking if other recipients had heard of any possible risk.
As a precaution, the District involved the <edit> County Police Department, who confirmed there was no credible threat. Nonetheless, as an additional precaution, the District has increased security presence at the high school today, March 10, 2016.

As parents we all have to make decision – sometimes snap and often with little information and few facts.  I try to be consistent in decision-making – deliberate and not reactionary.  I want to teach my kids about living in the world we live in – not in an idealized past or non-existent Mayberry.

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Four, 18, 16 – Back to the Grind

6a00d83452920069e20168e5b7589e970c-800wiSometimes timing is everything – for my kids the timing of winter storms wrapped around the weekend has meant a four-day weekend and extra sleep today.  So including today they will have four hours of education out of 18 possible since last thursday.  All because a grand total of 16 inches of snow has fallen over four days – but most of it during the height of the morning commute.  Today its back to the grind, sort of.

The nice side of the girls growing up is snow days aren’t the chore they once were.  The downside is now that the girls have gotten older, there are new challenges changes in schedule present.

For me, I still can’t get past the school being open just 22% of the allotted time over a three-day period.

You’d think running an institution in New York in the winter would prepare you the contingencies of snow without completely tossing the schedule out.

Before anyone jumps ugly, I get the safety issue.  But there is a broader issue about institutional awareness of the mission they signed up for.  Snow was falling and I was working.  Dig out the car the car and life goes on.

The girls are so immune to the whole thing, it’s just another day to sleep in for them.  There is no startled wake up at 8 or 9 thinking, “I’m late to school.”  Just lazily wander down the stairs and stare into the refrigerator and wonder what’s for breakfast – at the crack of noon.

Back to the grind we go.  Four hours of school out of 18, while 16 inches of snow (give or take) coats the grass.

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Plotting Course

Lost in thoughtFrom the earliest days of my journey as a single parent one of the realizations I had was there will be many times when I’ll be facing decisions big and small – and not the ones that are made on the fly – that couples would normally talk out.  Yes, there are no shortage of people I can talk in these moments – but making decisions that will impact my kids is still different on my own.  But life demands plotting a new course at different points.

Sometimes talking out loud helps.  Other times making lists helps.  Sometimes pulling on the running shoes and turning up the music helps.  Then the decision is made and it’s time to tell the girls.

And reality sets in.  That hard decision isn’t even a blip on their radar.

Such is the case.  The important part is everyone understands and is on board, as we like to say in corporate speak, “We’re all on the same page.”  More often than not, it helps.

In those moments I wonder what it will be like for the girls when they are faced with these decisions.  When they have families and have to plot a new course.  What will their process be?

I can see 15.5 taking to writing and hitting the gym (sounds familiar right?) and 13.0 sketching and cooking (some of that is familiar) to work through the angles and get to the decisions.

The decision made, the course plotted – a weight lifted. We continue our journey, mostly happy and predominantly on the same page.

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One Hour A Day

one hour a dayEvery now and then I get a question from a friend,  a comment on this blog or just in passing – and generally it goes something like this, ” Wow, you have two teen-aged girls, a full-time job and you manage to get to the gym almost every day, how do you do it?”  Usually I just shrug and say I just get it done.  I realized this week though, the truer answer is – its my hour.  One hour a day I get to be fully in charge of what I do.

Sometimes its a little longer, sometimes its a little shorter – but that is my time.  I think I deserve to carve one hour out of the day for me.

Break it down – figure 6-7 hours sleeping.  8-10 hours working.  An hour getting the girls up and going in the morning.  3-4 hours juggling events and driving from place to place.  That’s 18-22 hours of 24 accounted for.  So one hour at the gym where I don’t have to check in on anyone, I can do what I want and reach my goals seems pretty fair.

And that’s the reason why I don’t use my phone at the gym – I am “off the grid,” or at least close to it.  Through the magic of iOS in an emergency I can still be reached – but whatever the call or text is, it will wait until I’m done doing my thing for that one hour.

The reality is, that hour can vary.  Some days it’s at five in the morning.  Other days it’s at 11:30 in the morning – usually its somewhere in between.  But it’s my one hour a day to not have to be accountable to anyone but myself.

That’s not bad thing.  In anyone’s life in 2015 there is accountability to so many people and institutions.  My girls have expectations of their father.  My bosses (and I have several) have expectations.  Although lesser – there are expectations from extended family and friends.  But for one hour a day I can hold myself accountable.

Some days I push really hard.  Other days it’s a lighter workout – but it’s my decision, for one hour a day.  There are great people at my gym to answer questions and offer encouragement.  There are great resources on-line to get motivation and new ideas.

The best advice I can offer – even if the gym isn’t your thing, take the hour.  You deserve it, its yours.  Go off the grid and be in the moment for yourself one hour a day.

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Promise, Passion and a Bat Mitzvah

temple selfieWell, we did it.  13.0 not only celebrated her birthday over the weekend, she celebrated her bat mitzvah – and it’s truly an act of family that can pull off the entire event from Friday night services at temple, through the Saturday morning service and the party.  For me, the passion driving me to make this happen is the promise I made to Risa to get her children through this milestone in life.  So, this bat mitzvah was about passion and a promise.

As I mentioned here earlier this week, I stalled as long as possible putting together the montage that would be shown at the party – avoiding that walk down memory lane.  I equally avoided writing the speech because of the raw emotion that bring up within me.  In fact, I didn’t write the speech until I took the girls for mani/pedis on Friday afternoon.

In that speech, I spoke to 13.0 about finding things in life that she is passionate about.

Be passionate about what you want to do.

 

It may be softball, or art, or reading or writing – or something you have not even experienced yet. I can tell you when you are passionate about a goal, achieving it becomes easier and more enjoyable.

 

And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one passion. Pick your head up from the screen long enough to see the beauty of the world around you – and look into the eyes of the people here today, and know each of them wants you to succeed.

And with that – 13.0 and I stepped to the center of the temple and I took the selfie which is the picture – to remind her of the friends and family she can count on.

Just as I relied on my friends and family to achieve this wish Risa had for her children, and fulfill the promise I made with as much passion as I could muster – I hope that 13.0 will carry that passion beyond her bat mitzvah to all of the things she tries.

A weekend about a bat mitzvah, passion and promise – and all of it well done.

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