Your Best and Hope

do your best and hopeGenerally, I try to keep things positive and keep it in perspective.  It would be easy to lament the things I’m either missing or have been without in life.  But I don’t think that serves me well – instead (and I use this metaphor a lot) I look in the mirror in the morning and hope the guy looking back knows you do your best and hope for the right outcome.

Admittedly, it sounds a little overly thought out – but a friend’s Facebook post recently got me thinking about not only my life my the lives of my kids.  Without sharing more than she may want in this forum – she’s a 9/11 widow and her daughter – who was a new-born on that day in 2001 recently went found her father’s name at the memorial in NYC.  My friend posted the text exchange she had with her daughter including a picture of the name.

Do your best and hope is probably standard thinking for any parent – or at least I would hope that it is.  But in the case of an only parent where you play two roles but can only be one person it has a different feel.

I grew up without a father.  He passed when I was in kindergarten.  I don’t think I missed out on anything in life – but I admit I didn’t have a blueprint to be a father.  This is when your best and hope has to work.

My kids are growing up without a mother.  What will their future as parents be? Was my best good enough? I hope so.

In my house, my kids have a closeness I never had with my brothers.  I’m not sure that’s just a function of girls and boys.  I’m not sure its a function of parenting.  Even when my older brother lived with us for a year, I still never felt that bond that I can see in my girls.

Back then I told my kids we were opening our house because that’s what you do for family – it was the best we could do at the time.  You do your best and hope.

So as we embark on the next school year with all kinds of firsts – 17.5 will drive to school, graduate in June, apply to college while 15.0 will move into honors English and advanced art classes – is my best enough?

It’s what I can offer.  Everyday I tell the guy in the mirror – just do your best and hope.

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Independent People Emerge

Artwork from 14.5’s HS art show

It’s something I’ve known for a while but probably didn’t want to admit to myself until I was forced to – and somewhere during the high school art show this week – that moment came:  my kids are truly independent people.

As a parent you watch with some amazement as your children develop personality.  I’m pretty sure the first time we noted that was in a restaurant setting where our kids expressed choices on what they wanted.  You could see it at that moment. Independent people emerging.

This week at the high school 14.5 had a dozen or so art projects on display – and its while I was walking around with her showing me the projects and listening to her describe the assignments – I realized her independent person had fully emerged.

I think the timing was about the same when I realized my older one was an independent person too – but I am pretty sure I never admitted it to myself.

What I mean though is not that I am no longer needed (although that day is coming).  What I see from the girls is they can make their own choices.  They know what they like, and then can express it.

16.5 is an exceptional writer and story-teller.  She can express her thoughts and feelings with symbols and directly.

14.5’s voice clearly emerges through her art work  You can see her expressing herself and her feelings.

Both of my girls are independent people (and they still order what they want when we’re out to eat).

As a parent I have to be amazed and in awe that I can see this.  I think it’s what parents want when they start out – and to see it manifest is rewarding.  Independent people emerged in my house and in their lives.  My hope as a parent is they can nurture their ability to share their expressions and thrive at it throughout their lives.

One day, perhaps they’ll have the honor of watching independent people emerge within their children too….

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It’s Just a Number

This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but life happens sometimes, right? And more likely than not, given how little I pursue my birthday as an event – it probably has something to do with it.  But I am now 50.  AARP eligible.  But when I think about it, being 50 is just a number.

I know a bunch of people – my peers from high school and other walks of life – who have seen turning 50 this year as a watershed moment.  A time to take stock and do a self assessment.  But when I think about it – 50, it’s just a number still.

I look at life as full of milestone moments – if you’re heads up and looking ahead those moments of assessment and self scoring should be ongoing.

What would happen if I hit 50 and suddenly realized my life lacked meaning?  I suppose that’s where the mid-life crisis is born.  But that’s not me.

Physically, with the exception of a cranky hip I’m feeling better than I have in a long time.

Emotionally, I think I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for a while as well.

My kids are doing well – in school, in life and in general.

My career is going in the right direction

So what do I have to look back at and decide I need to restart? I don’t think anything – but that’s through the lens of looking ahead – and staying at a high level of keeping my eyes on the goals of my kids, my life and my choices.

Not to say I would never want a do-over on something here or there – but there’s no need to wait half a century and try to unring the bells.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning a great link about being wiling to say, “I need to start again,” and it’s exactly right.

So 50, it’s just a number.  Now it’s 50 and a couple of weeks.

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A Birthday Wish

Today would have been Risa’s 48th birthday.  As has always been the case – I thought about it a couple of days ago (April 4 to be exact).  For all the years we were together, I could never firmly remember whether her birthday was the fourth or the eighth.  I just was ready on the fourth and waited for others to say happy birthday.  So, here’s a birthday wish….

While I struggle with April because of birthday’s and the milestones of the month Risa was always big on birthdays.  I can’t help but think she would have truly found pleasure in taking 16.5 to the seamstress this morning for a second fitting for her junior prom gown (it needs a few more nips and tucks).  And I know she would have found 14.5’s coming home with the application for working papers and a plan to get a job rewarding – I know I did.

There won’t be any candles (or cake) tonight.  No singing of “Happy Birthday.”  Instead, there will be a birthday wish that I know Risa would hope to share – that everyone take a moment to enjoy what you have and cherish the moment.

I know I will today – and into next week when the next milestone comes.  Then as I turn 50 later this month – I too shall share in this birthday wish.

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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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8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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Judgment and Discernment – Synonyms?

Question-264245_8285So, lately I’ve been struggling with the gap between judgment and discernment – if you were to go on Thesaurus.com judgement and discernment are synonyms.  The origin of judgment dating back to the 13th century:

judgment early 13c., “a pronunciation of an opinion, criticism,” from O.Fr. jugement (11c.), from jugier (see judge). Meaning “any authoritative decision” is from early 14c. (the Doomsday sense, “trial of moral beings by God,” is mid-14c.); meaning “the forming of an opinion” is from late 14c. Sense of “discernment” is first recorded 1530s.

The origin of discernment is a little more circumspect:

discernment 1580s, from discern + -ment.

So perhaps the answer lies in the definition?  I figured I’d check dictionary.com.  For judgment (in context of my current thoughts) the fourth definition is right:

the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind:

Our judgment as to the cause of his failure must rest on the evidence.
As opposed to discernment:
the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.
So, with all apologies to my third grade teacher where they are using the root of the word in the definition, the reference goes back to judgement  – not quire helping my current conundrum.
So, here’s the issue.  As life rolls along – I am trying to figure out if we pass judgment or simply discern facts and then take action?
I’d like to think we practice discernment over judgement in most things – and once we reach a level of discernment we’re able to apply a judgement.  But is it wrong to pass a judgement before the facts are discerned?  Is it even possible?
I supposed based on the world-wide web (and that’s never wrong, right?) they are synonymous terms – so there is no difference.  Yet I can’t help but think there are.
So before passing judgement on this conundrum – see if you can discern a meaning – and then let me know, because I remain as confused as when I started.

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Savor and Appreciate

death of a friendFor a couple of weeks now a story that many of my friends know about has haunted me – but I really haven’t talked about its impact on me.  (For anyone who knows me, they know that is not a surprise at all).  One of the reasons I have not spoken much about the sudden death of a friend from my childhood is because I could not figure out what was so upsetting to me about it – then I realized that doesn’t matter.  The take away is to savor and appreciate what we have because it all goes by quickly.

Gabe Selig and I were never super close.  We were friends through grade school and into high school.  He grew up for the most part across the street from my grandmother’s house.  We shared many classes together, had mutual friends and later in life at a few chance meetings in the city shared some beers.

Gabe collapsed and died playing ultimate frisbee with a team he belonged to about two weeks ago.

When I first saw the postings on Facebook I thought it was a joke of sorts – Gabe announcing his retirement from frisbee.  Then as the tributes to Gabe rolled in, I realized it was not a joke – someone my age in relatively good (at least appearance wise) health suddenly dropped dead.

There are lots of images from my past of those exact moments – maybe this conjured some of those up.  Maybe the fact that I’m closer to 50 than anything else has me wondering about what my life will be like in five or 10 years.  Or maybe its a sign to savor and appreciate what you have now – and focus on the good things in life because there’s no telling what tomorrow holds.

I wasn’t there that Sunday when Gabe collapsed on a field – and it took more than a week before I was able to find details to what occurred that day.  I was watching the pictures Gabe shared from the frisbee event that weekend as they flipped by on my Facebook timeline.

I know all too well – from my father, to my grandfather, to my brother, to my wife that life moves at its own pace and its own path – maybe the lesson though is to savor and appreciate the moment….

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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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Walking Down Memory Lane

memory laneThis weekend 12.5 not only becomes 13.0 but she’ll celebrate her bat mitzvah on her birthday (Saturday).  One of the tasks I own for the event (as I did two year’s ago for her sister’s) is making the montage.  This is a romp through picture and some video of the first 13 years of their life.  Once again I dragged my feet to get this done – because walking down memory lane is not the easiest of things for me to do.

So this week, while juggling the softball schedule for 12.5, the soccer schedule for 15.0, the work schedule for the single dad and keeping the house up and running – I dove through boxes of pictures and flipped through the digital files of the last 13 years to pull together the images and moments that will help sum up 12.5’s life in about nine and a half minutes.

Along the way were reminders of the life l had 20 or more years ago.  I can remember (most) of the moments captured on film (yes film) and the happy times that seem so long ago.

Tucked away in a box is an album of pictures from the trip Risa and I took where we got engaged.  In the back of a closet were pictures from the road trip Risa and I took when we moved to Dallas.  In the basement (in a box from our move to our house) were pictures of 15.0’s day of birth and the time I took her sledding when she was maybe two years old.

Thinking back, when it was 15.0 getting her bat mitzvah I am sure I waited to the last-minute to do the montage.  I know like this time I waited to the last-minute to write my speech.

Getting the girls’ through their bat mitzvah was important to Risa – and something I want them to experience.  So even with the uncomfort of walking down memory lane, there is the reality that I am keeping the girls connected to their mother.

Standing up and trying to share this with 12.5 on Saturday (and a temple full of friends and family) is a whole other challenge.  But for today – that’s not the one I am facing.  There are people who relish walking down memory lane – I’m probably not one of them.

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