8765 Times 5 – Milestones Achieved

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

Risa, the girls and me after we moved into our home

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the five years since Risa passed away 43,825 hours have ticked away.  Sometimes time just flies by as we go about our lives.  Other times, the hours drag as moments play out.  In the 8765 hours over this year some milestones have been achieved and moments have been shared.

Maybe the most significant was 13.0 achieving her bat mitzvah.  While I don’t think the struggle was any tougher than any family goes through convincing a 12-year-old that studying Torah and practicing prayers and readings is important – this had deeper meaning for us.  One of the few promises I made to Risa over the years she battled her brain tumor was that the girls would make it to their bat mitzvah.

Not only did 13.0 perform flawlessly – but she emerged as the young lady she is becoming.

With that goal accomplished this year it’s a chance to look back and reflect – but also to look ahead.

When I have a “look ahead” conversation with friends, somehow they all talk about paying for a wedding – I’m a little more of a realist and thinking about cars and college.

Sometimes as an only parent it’s tough to step back and evaluate how things are going.  I can look around and see signs of positive results – good grades in school, the ability for the three of us to communicate with one another, 13.0’s bat mitzvah, 15.5 setting out to become a lifeguard over the summer and accomplishing it and other tangible moments.

But sometimes out of nowhere comes confirmation that I’m sure Risa would be proud of too:

15.5 is in all honors classes and an AP class this year.  Her English teacher sent me an email last week about a moment from class that reassure’s me that there is a solid foundation to build on.

It seems the teacher’s mother is going through a health crisis and the teacher has been in and out of school.  She ended up canceling a test right before Thanksgiving, and told 15.5’s class it was due to the illness of her mother.  According to the teacher, 15.5 stayed after class that day and shared that she knew what it was like to have a sick mother and she would be there to support her teacher if she needed it.

How could a parent not be proud of the young lady they are raising?

One of the lessons I learned in childhood (raised by an only parent) is that there is no instruction manual for life.  You look at the moment, try to assess it and handle it as best you can.  You won’t always be right but if you decide with caring and compassion you won’t be wrong very often.

More than 350,000 hours have ticked off since my father passed away.  I think about him and Risa and wonder if I’m doing OK and what would they think about the way life for the girls and me has turned out.  I think it’s OK.

And so we’ll start to tick off another 8765 hours with more milestones to achieve.  We’ll build on our success and learn from our mis-steps and be able to look one another in the eye and know what is important and who we can count on – and all in, that’s not so bad.

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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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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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The Camp Call (Again)

Camp CallFor the fifth summer both girls are away at camp.  It’s never super easy to put them on the bus, over the years its become a right of summer.  One of the “features” of camp is a weekly call home that I schedule about a month before they leave.  This week was the first for the summer, and the camp call again is a moment I can relax.

Sure, I get letters from the girls.  Or at least this year a few empty envelopes from 15.0 – who is “too lazy” to actually write a letter.  At least I know she’s doing alright.

But the call has that element of interaction in it, combined with just hearing from them that things are going OK.  There is the list of things needed – sheets, liquid soap, a pillow pet to name a few.  Plus the checking in on what’s going on at home.

But it’s also my chance to hear in their voices the pleasure they having at camp.  Find out first had the fun they’re having with their friends, and the trips they are going on.

In her first letter home 15.0 mentioned her knee that was a little cranky last fall during the soccer season was bothering her again.  I got to hear from her it was not a problem – just getting used to running on the trails she was thinking.

12.5 was telling me about the other girls in her bunk preparing for autumn bat mitzvahs and how they go to lessons together.  It’s something she was reluctant to do at camp – but now is a moment she shares with her friends, and enjoys.

The camp call again is that weekly insight that can’t be read in a letter that gives me the knowledge that everything is OK.  I can still hear 15.0 talking about her lifeguard lessons and 12.5 talking about Ace of Cakes evening activities as I head home from a week of work in California and it’s actually comforting.

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The Dog Days of Summer

dog days of summerSince so much of my formative education comes from knowledge I learned playing and watching baseball – my understanding of the “dog days of summer” comes from baseball as well.  In ball terms, it’s the 40 day stretch from July 3 to August 11 that represent the hottest and most humid part of the baseball season.  These dates pretty much coincide with the time my girls are away at camp, so once again baseball logic prevails and thus we are in the dog days of (my) summer as well.

Unlike the Mets (and all the other teams that I really don’t care all that much about), my dog days of summer bring with it a nice respite from the other 45 weeks of the year.  That change of pace has become important to all of us in the house – and despite the forecast highs in the 90’s and the air quality warnings, it is a breath of fresh air.

During these days I am not on the go trying to coordinate three schedules, keep my career afloat, manage the house and this year plan a bat mitzvah.  The summer brings with it a chance for me (and the girls) to take a break from that pace – and do our own things.

For the girls it’s camp – where they are now for a fifth summer.

For me, I get a chance to do some travel – both work and sometimes even pleasure.  I can slow down and enjoy sitting on the beach at sunset without having to worry where anyone is, or sleeping past six in the morning without worrying someone won’t make it to school on time.

Granted, there are always those things that come up – this year its an unexpected (and slightly extended) visit from my brother which has slowed down the house stuff.  But it will get done.

Dog days of summer were probably conceptualized by the ancient Romans.  While their thought the the bright star Sirius (The Big Dog) rises and sets with the sun and helps generate extra heat.  But they did have it right during this time the stars (Sirius and the sun) are aligned – giving rise to the dog days.

In recent year’s I’ve had to contend with knee rehab, a travel schedule that had me on the road weekly, and last summer’s silence.

It’s still not set in stone what this summer will hold for me, or just how much I will have to say about it – because as ball players do in the dog days of summer, I too shall conserve some energy and be ready for the stretch run of 2015.

Just as I hope the dog days of summer for the Mets bring on important games in September – once our dog days end, we have a sprint to the end of the year.  It’s back to school in September, a bat mitzvah in October and the launch of the holiday season in November and December.  All of that before flipping the calendar to 2016 – but none of it before we celebrate the dog days of summer.

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8765 Times Four Living and Remembering

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year – and each of them has ticked off once again since Risa passed away in 2010.  Entering my fifth year as a single parent raising two girls and I can say we are making the best of our lives and have overcome life’s hurdles – not without challenges.  But 8765 times four living and remembering, we’re hanging in.

A lot happened during the course of the year – along with each of us getting a year older we’ve gone about living our lives together and independently – and I think each of us have learned a lot.  The memories we share of Risa are never far away, and we talk about them a lot.

For me, I’ve had the chance to do so much during the last year.  It may not look like a well planned and thought out process – but more often than not it is.  There are so many people in my life who help make things easier to deal with.  Many have been there for a life time or longer – others are new.

For the girls, the year has been full of a lot of change and transition.  14.0 is in high school now, and asserting her independence.  12.0 is growing so quickly – and is quickly becoming a young lady.  She’s deep into the circuit for bar/bat mitzvahs for friends now – with hers less than a year away.

In the middle of the year our long time sitter moved out.  A few months later, my brother (who needed a chance to re-boot) moved in.  One day we’ll get our house back – but until then, I think Risa would be happy.  8765 time four living and remembering – and we’re doing OK.

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Sharing The Trade Secrets

A Helping HandFor 12.0 today is the second of her camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah’s – so we are at the beginning of her run of trips all around the tri-state area to celebrate with her friends.  Add in a few from the temple, and she’ll be busy most weekends through June – not unlike what her sister went through two years ago.  So it was big sister who stepped up and was sharing the trade secrets for makeup and hair.

For me its a lot of arranging car pools and a fair amount of driving.  For 12.0 its a fair amount of dressing, working on hair and nails and make up.  And she has the benefit of a great big sister who helps her out with all of that – and I have to admit I am pretty proud of the young ladies I live with.

From the moment your children are born, people always tell you it goes by quickly, and it truly does.  I can remember the moment I had to confront being a single parent taking my then pre-teen older daughter bra shopping.  It was a decision I made not to shirk the parental responsibility.

The other decision I made a long time ago, was to make sure 14.5 was never cast as a parent for her sister – but could if she wanted the role be a great big sister.

So, when 12.0 needed to get ready for her friend’s Bat Mitzvah, there was her sister helping with the hair and makeup.  Would they both rather have their mother help them with this – I’m sure the answer is yes.  But that’s not the way our family works – so we rely on each other, and there was big sister stepping in, and not just applying make up, but showing 12.0 some tips and tricks.

And I’m more than good with that.  My kids know in our house we can rely on one another when it comes to sharing the trade secrets.

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My Summer “Off”

My Summer OffAlmost two-weeks into my summer off (at least off from being a parent) and time is going by quickly.  Last summer, while the girls were at camp I was busy doing PT two-three times a week to recover from ACL replacement.  Nothing like that this summer, it’s kind of like having my summer off.

It’s not to say nothing is getting done, it is. It’s just a different feeling than last summer, or even two summer’s ago (the girls’ first summer at camp).  Two years ago, I was just starting my job so  there was a lot to learn and lot’s of running around.  Last  year it was all the PT.  This year, it’s actually time to just take a breath.

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And coming off the year, at least the first six months of 2013 that we had, time off is not so bad.  Between my second knee surgery (and extended PT), 13.0’s Bat Mitzvah and 10.5’s break-out violin year-we did a lot.

So now I get letters 4-5 times a week from the girls, we talk once a week and we’re all able to just unwind-not so bad.

So yeah, I still have a lot of work to do.  I have a heavier travel schedule over the summer than I carry during the year and I’m still trying to get a few projects done around the house.  But in the end, so far, my summer “off” is pretty good.

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The Sounds of Summer Silence

Sounds of Summer SilenceAs summer 2013 begins, once again the girls will head off to camp.  Almost lost in the shuffle of 13.0’s Bat Mitzvah and 10.5’s graduation to middle school-the right of summer in our house is here.  Off to the buses we go tomorrow morning, and for me, the sounds of summer silence shall ring out.

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Two years ago (the first year the girls went to camp), I was starting a new job and had some home projects I was either doing or having done.  Last year was all about rehab from my first of two knee surgeries.  This year, all about enjoying the sounds of summer silence.

There are no major plans.  A long weekend on Block Island, a few smaller projects around the house that I would try to get done anyway and just trying to recharge.

My knees are feeling good, I’d like to learn how to stand up paddle board this summer.

The girls feel ready for camp.  I went with 10.5 this morning to get her some summer reading material and offered up five times to make a stop if she needed anything.  She said no, but I think she knows she just needs to get on the bus tomorrow morning.

So after spending the first three months of the year rehabbing after the second knee surgery of 2012 and second three months working on school projects and Bat Mitzvah preparations, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sounds of summer silence.

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Well, We Did It

13.0 At the HoraWell, we did it.  We all made it through 13.0’s Bat Mitzvah.  I’ll be honest, there were times over the last 6 months (and the last 6 weeks in particular) I did not think we would make it.  But, we did it.

And not only did we do it, I think we did it well.

There were some tough moments for sure, but the fun and good memories certainly over-shadow the rougher edges.

Starting with the temple service Saturday morning, 13.0 was on the money.  She knew her material and put so much of herself and her personality into the morning. How could I be anything other than proud?

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Then came the evening.  Some gorgeous pictures at the beach near our house than off to the catering place for the party.  It could not have gone better.  A great happy hour, pictures mostly done and everyone able to have fun.  Finally, a chance to relax.

The DJ and his crew kept the kids (more than 40) engaged through the night.

13.0 and I left just before midnight.  Exhausted, but both thinking we had a lot of fun.

I want to thank all of our family and friends who traveled (through a tropical storm in most cases) to join us.  Without you, we would not have had nearly as much fun and we can’t express that with words.

Next up-10.5’s event in October 2015.  UGH!!

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