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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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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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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The Next Great Debate? Or A Sign of the Times?

teens-staring-at-phonesI’m not a massive fan of the humor/satire site The Onion, but an older video from their site recently made its way to my Facebook timeline – and I was thinking that could easily be me (maybe without a discussion on euthanasia of course).  The surgical attachment of devices to the hands of my teen-aged girls – is this the next great debate? Or a sign of the times?

From The Onion archive story tells the story Caitlin Teagirt a 13-year old who is reduced to simply rolling her eyes and grunting because of digital addiction.

To be fair to 15.5 and 13.5 – I am perhaps guilty too of being over connected (but that’s also how I pay the bills).  But at this point, it’s generally easier for me to communicate with my kids via text – or if I really want to capture attention Snapchat.  Shame on me for getting to this point.

At the same time, I also see technology is the equivalent of making phone calls and gathering up with my friends when I was their age.  For both girls, there is a constant flow of group texts, group Snaps and group Chats – it’s not a lack of socialization.

To me the issue is the dynamic within the house – and the rolling eyes and the ever-present mobile phones.  It’s an uphill battle and one I’m not entirely sure I want to take on – after all I’m not contemplating euthanasia and it’s not getting in the way of the important aspects of home life.

When thinking about the question of if it’s the next great debate, or just a sign of the times – I’ll fall to the latter and accept the present.

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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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Cupid Undie Run Time Again

https://my.cupids.org/esd714

Please contribute:
https://my.cupids.org/esd714

Now that there is snow on the ground and temperatures have been closer to February like here in NYC – it must be time to strip down to my underwear and take to the streets of New York.  Yes it’s Cupid undie run time again.

If you’re new to my blog or to the run take a look at some of the pics on my Instagram (feel free to throw a like or a follow as well).  Then check back on February 13th as I’ll be adding more pics then.

The Cupid Underwear Run is a charity event raising money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation – so I am asking you to help and contribute.  Here is my personal page for contributions.  So you know I’ll also be matching the first $200 contributed this year through my company DTSG, LLC.

The logical question is why would I strip to my underwear and run around NYC?

As most of you know, Risa was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1997 and lived a productive life until her death in five years ago.  During that time, I saw first hand the damage a tumor can do to the human body and spirit.  As a parent, I can’t even begin to contemplate what it would be like to see my child suffering.  The nice thing about the underwear run is 100% of the money raised goes to CTF – there is no administration board to pay.
Look for pics on my Instagram next week – and please contribute.  It’s Cupid Underwear Run time once again.

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Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the New Year

Steve Harvey Miss UniverseI have to admit right at the onset, not only didn’t I see the faux pas that occurred during the Miss Universe pageant when Steve Harvey crowned the runner-up the winner and then had to fess up to his mistake, the only reason I even noticed it was because of social media (and I mostly ignored it).  The only reason I’ve even thought about is the girls and I had the chance to meet Steve Harvey this year and appear on his show.  So what do Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the new year have to do with one another?

(Outside a chance to repost the link to the appearance the girls and I had on the show that is).

The new year is a blank canvas for all of us – a chance to look back at the year that was and reflect on what went right, what went wrong and what we can take away from it all.  The new year is the ultimate do over – much like Steve Harvey had about a minute after realizing the mistake.

You take a look around, realize what you’ve done, assess how to fix it and move on.

I’m sure the news-cycle will move on fairly quickly on this moment for Steve and once Christmas passes us by – we’ll all begin to look at the promise of 2016.  We all face at some level the rough and tumble of the news-cycle – just not always played out across social media, traditional media and whispered in every corner of world.

Mistakes happen, it’s a lesson we all probably started learning when we were six years old – and now and then can use a reminder.  Am I happy that my next book won’t be available for the start of the year – no.  But a chance to learn from the reasons for the delays and a chance to move on and try again next year is just around the corner.

Just as Steve Harvey did during Miss Universe – stop, realize what you’ve done and be honest with yourself and others and move on.  That’s all we can do.  History is done, the moment we’re living is now and its the one we all need to focus on.

We’re 10 days away from a clean slate – a chance to reset and restart.  Take some time now to asses what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve come up short on and what you want to do.  The moment of Steve Harvey, Miss Universe and the new year will come and go quickly – the moment of changing the narrative is ongoing.

 

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Happy Holidays, There I Said It

Happy HolidaysAs the holiday season creeps closer and closer to the end of summer, so does the never-ending (and mostly inane) discussion about Christ, Christmas, holiday greetings and simply anything and everything that has nothing to do with the season.  Even though the pumpkins are still on the steps and the turkey hasn’t been sliced, happy holidays.  There I said it.  Now what?

As a guideline (short of a rule) I avoid politics and religion on this blog – largely because I firmly believe it’s no one’s business what I think about either.  However, the garbage spewed about Starbucks and the holiday cups is just too much (OK maybe I spent too much time on social media today).  Whatever.  I am done already – so happy holidays.  There I said it, again.

Without a discussion of Christ in Christmas (or how a mall dresses up the area where Santa sits), or when Hanukkah Harry will show up, or if Dr. Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga is truly the originator of Kwanza – can we all just agree that the holidays are a time for us to reflect on the good fortune in our lives.

None of us live the storybook, but one time a year we’re all in better than normal cheer and its a time of year where you feel like almost anything can happen.  Why cloud the moment with a narrative of forced religion wrapped in oblique symbolism?

I won’t.  Happy holidays, there I said it again.

If I see you after Thanksgiving, if we talk before the end of the year or maybe (but highly unlikely) I’ll send out cards.  I won’t try to guess if you’re Jewish like me, Catholic or African-American.  Instead, with heartfelt pleasure I’ll say to you, “Happy holidays,” there I said it again.  Now what?

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Just E-Mail Dad

Generation Z EmailFor all of the ubiquity that email offers us in the workplace, at home, in commerce and purchasing – I’ve come to realize for my kids (and I would suspect others in Generation Z) email is a necessity simply to register for apps and other things – and not a means of communication.  When a message needs to be delivered, my girls just leave it with a simple, “just email dad” when it comes time for them to give out their email address.

I first realized this when 12.5’s softball coach asked for her email so she could get team updates directly.  She politely but directly told her coach, “Just email dad, I have the girls on the team on group chat.”  The use case was re-emphasized this week when 15.0’s soccer coach started sending out updates for summer workouts.  They come straight to me, her email is not even on the distribution.

For those of us in the semi-modern workplace, email management is almost part of the job.  For me and most of my co-workers, a day with 100 or more work emails is the norm.  Add to that personal emails account(s) and I can easily deal with more than 500 emails a day.

The reality is most of them are either deleted before looking at them, or deleted after a quick look at the subject line only – but that is the way email management works.  For Gen Z though, it’s just not the case.  The most relevant statistics I could find are from 2012 – and I would suspect the trend that showed three years ago continues:

  • Of 1000 people from eight to 17 only half said they use email on a daily basis as a means to communicate – trailing talking, texting and social networks.
  • When looking at a sub class of that 1000 asked in the age group of 13-17 email usage falls to under 25%.
  • 25% of that 1000 say they check messages (text, email and social media) within the first five minutes of waking up.  More than half (52%) say they have checked within the first hour of being away.
  • The 13-17 year old sub class of that group has already sent more than 50 text messages or social network updates in that time.  Total email messages sent is fewer than 10.

In a business sense, this means connecting with this generation – which the same study says has “desirable and disposable” income means changing up from the new traditional marketing (email) to a new paradigm of social marketing and leveraging channels like Snap Chat and other emerging platforms.

In a practical sense though, if you want to get hold of my kids and don’t know how to text them, “just email dad”  apparently I deliver messages more efficiently than the post office.

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Tech and Paper

Us passport iVery unintentionally I recently ran into that moment when the effort to go paperless and leverage technology hits the old school – when tech and paper come together.

It all started a few weeks ago when I had to get updated passports for the girls.  15.0 will be on a trip from camp this year to the Pacific Northwest which includes time in Vancouver – so she’ll need a passport to exit and re-enter the country (although there are times where I think leaving her in Canada would not be the worst outcome).

Anyway – it was off to the post office I would go.  I called first to schedule an appointment and asked about how to get a passport when one parent is deceased meaning there is only one signature on the dotted line.  The answer was to bring a copy of the death certificate with the official raised stamp and that would be inspected, photocopied and sent along.

Those steps are exactly what happened.

The “tech” part of this, is the US Department of State has the ability to sign up to get text alerts let you know about status of your application.  Great, text messaging is a preferred method of communication with me, so I signed up.  To be honest, I had heard nothing from the passport folks, and kind of forgot I signed up – until yesterday.

That’s when I got a text telling me they had sent me an email.

Not an overly effective use of communication – but it is the US government we’re talking about.  So, I log into my email only to find out they put a hold on the passport applications because they needed the original copy of the death certificate.

Follow:  I got a text, telling me to check my email, telling me I had to drop an envelope into the snail mail. I suppose that is where tech and paper collide – but this is the government, so they weren’t done.

It was now on me to print out the letter they scanned and attached to the email to me so I could return their own piece of paper to them with the document they asked for.  So this really is now a text telling me to check email telling me to print a document and mail it and another document back to them – using the same post office that managed to not understand the requirements in the first place.

So I feel really good (or not) about this implementation of technology by the US government – and I would tell my congressman Lee Zeldin about it, except for the fear of what that would mean to the paper and tech mill that is Washington.  I can only imagine getting a letter from my congressman or perhaps one of my senators Schumer or Gillibrand asking me to log into a website and fill out a form only to get more email from the government.

In the meantime, once I worked out the tech and paper – I realized I only had one copy of the official death certificate in the house – so I sent two freshly printed, government authored letters with one death certificate and can only hope for the best that this will get the passports handled.

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