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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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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Driving Lessons

Driving LessonsThis right of passage – giving driving lessons to a teenaged child – is not one faced by single (only) parents – but it’s been a unique challenge for me as an only parent to conquer, I think largely because it involves facing the fact that I have to give up some control.

Thinking back, I can remember the year from when I turned 16 (when you can get a learner’s permit) to when I turned 17 (when you can get your license) as a long year.  I remember doing the math and realizing although it seemed like it took forever to reach 16 (and 17) eventually I would be driving for more years in my life that I wasn’t.

So, I focused on learning to drive – both with my mom’s help and driving lessons and working for just about anyone who would pay me – so I could get a car the day I got my license.  For me, a car was freedom – the same way my bicycle was freedom when I was 10.

Now teaching 16.0 to drive is a whole new experience.

While I like to think I’m not a control freak, keeping things under control is important to me.  There is a definite sense of loss of control when you turn your 16-year old loose (even when you’re in the passenger’s seat and she’s in a parking lot) with your hard-earned automobile.

While I expect her to take a full driver’s ed course over the winter into the spring ahead of her June birthday – I’m trying to teach her how to be situationally smart while driving.  How to make decisions, and not what decisions to make (the model I’ve used for the last 6 years).

But now it’s hard to try to let her make decisions and sit there quietly while our safety (and my car) is on the line.

Slowly we’re getting there.  We’ve been out of parking lots a little and working on practical driving stuff (I’ll leave the technical teaching to the professionals).  And I’m slowly learning my driving lessons while I teach driving lessons to my daughter.

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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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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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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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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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Triggers and Reactions

problems-triggers-reactions-understanding-adI guess you never really know what will set you off and how you’ll react to it.  Triggers and reactions are probably near daily occurrences – and some are probably predictable and others can spin you around.

Some are predictable.  For me, walking by a pizza place generally means I’ll be hungry.  Walking by (as opposed to grabbing a slice) is a measure of success in managing the trigger.

Some triggers and reactions are relational.  Seeing a concert (I was at Dead and Company last weekend) usually triggers a party atmosphere where a fun time can be had.  I suppose how much fun you have is a way to measure that trigger’s impact.

Situational triggers and reactions occur as well.  No matter how tired I am when I drag into the gym I get going and the environment gets me through the hour (or so) I am there.  Although the measure could easily be the quality of the workout, I prefer to gauge the success on how I feel three hours later – if my energy or focus is better after the workout.

Other times triggers and reactions aren’t as easily defined.  The measure of success is equally ill-defined.

There are moments I can be thrown back to the morning when my father died by simply seeing an ambulance in front of a house with its doors open.  There are times I can be back on the corner my brother was hit by a car simply driving by a car accident.   Forty plus years later my reactions to these triggers are sometimes a deep breath – but rarely more than the imagery.

Other moments in time have triggers and reactions that are a bit more raw and tougher to manage and measure.  Those are the moments that will one day be a deep inhale – but today can be just about anything.

I’m not sure if measuring and managing those triggers and reactions is the best plan – but it’s what I do and sometimes it’s harder than others.

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