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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Of April, Birthdays and (Over) Thinking

RisaThe sayings go March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb to yield way to April showers for May flowers – April is not quite that optimistic a month for me.  For me it’s a chance to mark birthdays and over think milestones – not all of which are happy but I suppose that is the fertilizer of my life’s may flowers.

April starts with marking Risa’s birthday (4/6).  I have to confess it is among the dates I could never get right.  I always knew it was the sixth or the eighth – so I was ready for the sixth and rolled with it.  The month also the marks the passing of my father (4/14) and a reminder of my mortality (4/24).

Into that mix goes the rest of life that we deal with – the comings and goings of kids, the planning for events, work, school and all of the other pieces of life.

Last weekend 15.5 had a couple of camp friends over for a night.  It’s a small group of girls that have been close for five years – and this is the first summer they won’t be all together.  Some (like mine) are working, others are going to different summer programs and a few are going back for the next summer in camp.

I took that group plus 13.5 and one of her school friends to a local hibachi place for dinner.  As we were sitting there and I looked at the girls (each of their faces glowing in the light of their iPhone) and realized simultaneously how lucky I am and wondered what if life had been different?

We got the crew back to our house and 13.5 and her friend went upstairs and 15.5 and her friends went downstairs – and I sat in the family room watching hockey.  It wasn’t long before 15.5 asked me if a couple of boys could come over.  “It’s on now,” I thought – but I was prepared for this (shockingly I’ve thought about it).

So the boys came over and joined the music and shouting in the basement and I sat on the couch – trying to figure out how to pirate the west coast games (I couldn’t) and managed to stay awake long enough for the last of the boys to leave just before midnight.

One of the thoughts was how would this play out in a two parent home?  Would Risa have handled this differently?  I’m pretty sure I handled it right and the kids all had a good time – but should there have been more rules? More supervision?  Would a mom and daughter be a different mix than a dad and daughter?

I don’t get to change the equation on the last question.  So as we mark what would have been Risa’s 47th birthday and the march of milestones go by – April birthdays and (over) thinking gets started.

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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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Another Year Older: Taking Stock

self assessmentAt the cross point between a hectic week last week, and an equally hectic week ahead I was able to take a few minutes this morning to look back, ahead inward and outward some-call it a self assessment three days after my birthday.  So, another year older and in taking stock, hopefully a year or so wiser.

As I’ve noted over the years, I am not huge on my birthday and do my best to make sure the girls have great birthdays and although a little different this year, I use the season of my birthday as a chance to (overly) self assess.

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I like to say if I can stand in front of the mirror and look back at the person shaving before me, things are not so bad.  So this morning as I was dragging the razor over a three-day stubble I did just that.  The outcome was not so bad.

Certainly neither person in the mirror flinched or  tried to look away-a small victory.

Over the last year I think I have changed and adapted in a lot of ways.  Made mistakes a plenty for sure, but managed to learn from most of them.  I’m trying to be more patient with my girls, with people around me, co-workers etc.  I’m trying to be more understanding.  I’m trying to be more communicative.

The nice thing about taking an annual look back is you can see the progress that is not there day-to-day or even week-to-week, and overall I think I’ve made positive progress.  There’s a lot of work to do for sure, but with goals set and either achieving them or working toward them, I would say 45 was a good year for me, and into 46 I go.

Hopefully the lessons learned can be applied, and new lessons learned with less internal angst-but we all know there will be a lot of that.  From a Bat Mitzvah in a month, to camp in seven weeks to the school year ending and starting and into the holidays-there is a lot of time to walk through many new situations.  One day at a time and then a moment about this time next year to look back.

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The Single Dad Treadmill Spins Again

Here it is not quite 8 in the morning on the first Monday of December, and today is already all about being on a treadmill.  Running-and today pretty hard-and not really getting anywhere.  So, before a minor knee injury to my good knee I was just starting to get off the treadmill at the gym and started seeing things again while running.  Being back on the treadmill at the gym (and PT) is very much in line with my morning today (although if I make the gym it won’t be until much later).

Today’s running in place really started the week of the storm when I had the girls scheduled for their annual physical with their doctor.  Since moving to our house we’ve gone to the same place because it’s a huge practice and I can always get an appointment when I need one.  For well child though, the girls have found a specific doctor they like.  It’s a “girl” doctor who they feel comfortable with, so when scheduling, instead of taking whomever is available at the time I want to go, I work around her schedule.

The Monday before the storm (a month ago) I had a 3:15 appointment-easy with a pick up from school.

In rescheduling the best I could do was 8:45 this morning.  Not a problem I thought when I scheduled, everyone just goes to school late.

Then came 12.5’s friend’s birthday and they have to decorate her locker.  Still not awful, I take her up to school, they do the locker thing, and I take her home before school starts.  But Monday is orchestra day for my 10-year-old violinist.  With the concert 10 days away, no missing.  So back to the drawing board.

So, 12.5 gets to school at 7, they decorate the locker and she goes to first period and then I pick her up.  I can make that work.

10.0 though is a little trickier.  Its much tougher to get her out of school, and 830 will be an awkward time because it’s literally as the school day is starting.  But again I can make that work too.

So, armed with notes, candy, wrapping paper, breakfast and a violin, off my girls went this morning-mostly for pre-school activities.  I’ll get them as school starts, and get them back in time for lunch.

Round and round goes the treadmill, racking up miles but never really getting anywhere.

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Communication: Black, White and Static

The funny thing about communicating is there is very little room for gray.  Since I am not a great communicator, I realize that very often there is simply good, bad and none.  Rarely is there that in between state when things are good (or bad) but the lines stay open.

For those old (like me) who remember knobs on a radio for tuning, its like the space between stations.  There at 92.7 was crystal clear music.  Go slightly to the right, and there was nothing but static until 93.3 (classical music during the 80’s in NYC).  Often inter personal communications are a lot like that too.

I do not pretend to be a great communicator by any stress.  And often if my mind gets engaged with other stuff, those skills quickly diminish.  Anyone who reads these posts even a little can accurately accuse me of being far too introspective and sometimes missing the big picture by focusing on the micro instead of the macro.  Add to that my “seasons” of self introspection and doubt.  One comes around my birthday, there are shorter periods around my girls’ birthdays and for the last two years in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For a lot of reasons, these seasons are inwardly stressful, and I am sure outwardly since I won’t tell anyone that (but I’ll write it) it gets projected.

So my sometimes clear and colorful (white) communication gets a little fuzzy (static) and goes black (absence of color) as my seasons change apparently so do my skills at communicating.

There is the old axiom that the first step to fixing a problem is to identify it.  I can call it out, now just to get out of my head long enough to fix it.

And don’t forget, Dad the Single Guy’s new book “The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning” available now on Nook and Kindle.

 

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Season’s Change Along With Other Things

As the summer of 2012 came to an end last week and the Jewish year of 5772 ended as well I was struck at the rate at which things change around me-all at the same time.

Some of the change, like the season or year are inevitable.  Four times a year we pass a season, it’s on the calendar.  For Jews in America, twice a year there is a new year (Jewish and secular), for me in April I put another year on the tally.  But this season of change 9.5 turns 10 in less than two weeks and HCG has a birthday coming up as well.

There are things we do mark these milestones.  Temple and family for the Jewish holiday.  Family and friends for the birthday party etc.

For the girls, we are now a month (give or take) into the new school year.  There is a new routine that we layer into the house:  getting out in the morning; coming home; homework; Hebrew school; after school stuff and all the other pieces of being in fifth or seventh grade.  As that gets refined, I squeeze in work and my social life.

But there are also other changes which have coincidentally occurred this season which while not making things unsettled, don’t make them settled.  The other changes of and in themselves are not huge, but as I think through them, they are part of the ever-changing landscape of life.

After an argument about my working out a couple of weeks after my surgery at Planet Fitness, I joined a new gym.  I just did not feel like I was being treated well at Planet Fitness, and since there are alternatives for my 430AM gym time, why should I be where my business is not appreciated?  If you are a gym person,  you know that changing up is never easy.  There is a month or more of getting into a new routine, trying new (or different) equipment and just trying to get the whole routine down.

I’m also now the owner of an iPhone 5.  I was up for an upgrade on my old iPhone.  Even without getting a new number, getting a new phone configured (and I don’t me configured to the network) is a day to days long process.  There is a lot of personalization we do with our phones today that takes time to replicate to a new device.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is change is inevitable.  Some like the change of seasons and the coming of holidays is predictable.  Other changes happen along the way.  Taken together though, it’s all part of life, so we roll with it.

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School Year Week One-Its Done

After another summer that seemingly was once again too short, the girls are back at school and life is slowly returning to a sense of scheduled normalcy.  And that’s probably not so bad.

While I like to think we run the house in a state of over-controlled chaos, the reality is the rigidity of the school schedule helps us all.  We know what time we are waking up, what time we are heading out, what time we get home and what time we’re going to bed.  Built around all of that scheduling is the rest of our lives.  For 12.0 this year it means completing her studies for Bat Mitzvah.  She also wants to do some school sports (right now volleyball is the target) and along the way I am sure there will be four or five other things.

For 9.5 we have her 10th birthday to plan next month.  She also has Hebrew school to do and an assortment of friends and sports to keep up with.

Somewhere in all of that, I’ll find time to be a guy in a relationship and be successful at that.  Oh yeah, I’ll also try to advance myself in my career, keep rehabbing my knee-I should start running in the next two weeks and find time to do some fun stuff with the girls: Mets game, apple picking, pumpkin picking etc.

So a week into the school year and a sense of predictability (more so than normalcy) sets into the house.  Not a bad thing mind you, and I think it’s something we all can be happy with.

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Another Year Noted

In the hustle and bustle of the week that was another birthday in the house was passed.  My oldest daughter is now 12, and with that comes a whole new (or newer) world of stuff to manage, negotiate and handle.

Birthdays have been a vexing issue for me, and while this one was not as unmanageable as some in the recent past, still it was tough.  Add to that, with my pending surgery I am trying to be in the office as much as possible to allow for me to be out with a clear conscience and clean plate-so despite plans to make it home early on Wednesday when she had her birthday, I managed to get home a usual time.

In our house, once you get north of 10 and before bat mitzvah (11 and 12) it’s a smaller affair.  Dinner with some friends or a movie.  We planned that out a week before her birthday-tonight we are going to a local Korean BBQ place.  This is a new favorite for the kids-they like the hibachi  in the middle of the table.

The gift I got her a couple of months ago, when she “lost” her iPod Touch.  I bought her a replacement for it, instead of the bike I was going to get her.  So the gathering of the friends was taken care of and gift was solved.  Now just to make sure she felt special for the day.

I had some help there, her friends at school decorated the locker-which was really nice.  I did get a card for her and an iTunes gift card.

But as is usually the case with birthday’s a me, there comes the quality time of introspection-did I do enough.  And now the countdown is on.  Twelve months from now is her bat mitzvah, and I am already over analyzing how to handle that event.

And soon, it will be another year noted, again.

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Dinner At Home

In confluence of events-some real, some personal, some probably imagined by me I took today as a WFH (work from home for the uninitiated).  And overall, it was a pretty productive day work wise, and the extra hour or so I got to sleep really helped after a really long day yesterday.

Since I was home all day, I gave the sitter the day off, so it was just the girls and me all afternoon.  I handled the Hebrew carpool, a quick run to Staples to begin the science fair project and I made dinner.

I think it was the first time in months the girls and I had a nice quiet meal at home during the week-kind of like a traditional family where we were able to talk about school, the day and whatever else.

An interesting and random subject that came up started with 11.5 asking, “Do you like or hate birthdays?”  Now, I struggle with birthdays for well documented reasons, and I also have told the girls I will give them a straight up answer to a question-so for the birthday question, the hard truth is out.

One of the interesting dynamics about both girls is they tend to go to extremes.  Since I have issues with my birthday it must radiate to all birthdays-and it doesn’t.  There was also discussion about all adults and if they hated (or didn’t like their birthdays).

I actually miss being able to just sit around the dinner table and have a conversation with the girls.  There are a lot of tradeoffs to being a single parent, commuting 3.5 hours plus a day and trying to be present as much as possible.  One of those trade offs is being able to sit down to dinner-it’s a trade-off for the comfort of living where we do with the friends around us, and one I am willing to make.

But still it’s nice to every now and then to step back and just catch up.

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