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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Back In the Dad Business

back in business againIt certainly didn’t take long to go from mostly carefree near 50-year-old with kids away at camp to being back in the dad business.  It really took just a couple of hours before the chauffeur’s hat was out and juggling of plans was on – and the initial toll was a night’s sleep.

The girls came home from what both have called their best summer ever at camp.  15.0 had her trip to the Pacific Northwest and 12.5 had her trip to Washington DC (she returns to the nation’s capitol in the fall with school).  15.0 also completed her lifeguard certification at camp while 12.5 matched a camp record for bulls-eyes on the archery field (who knew)?

There were tons of stories as we sat down for pizza (as we usually do) after they got off the bus – and lots to share.  The girls had their adventures, I had mine Saturday doing the Long Island Tough Mudder.  We got home and they saw some of the changes in the house and went about unpacking the stuff they brought on the bus.

Then came the shout down the stairs:

“Padre,” 15.0 called out.  “Can you take me to my friend’s house?”

And so it goes.  About two hours later came the text, “Is it OK if we go to another friend’s house?”  Now the second friend wasn’t out with the gang because she’s battling a strep throat.  So I shared how I thought it would be a bad idea.  I was over ruled.

While 15.0 was out, I got an email from the head soccer coach of the girls program at the high school.  She now has training workout Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  Along with that she has a mandatory meeting for Camp Good Grief volunteers on Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, 12.5 has plans with one of her best friend’s today, softball practice on Thursday evening and both have dress shopping for 12.5’s bat mitzvah on Friday and Saturday.

A stark reminder the carefree summer days are over.  I can understand why sleep was so hard to come across last night.  And my sore legs are a stark reminder of the physical challenge of the Tough Mudder Saturday.  The signs are up, the lights are on – I’m back in the dad business, again.

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Debunking the Opt-Out

opt-inWhen it comes to education around our home town, the thing that seems to get parents more riled up than Common Core is the state-issued standardized testing that is upon us.  These tests are in the week ahead, and many parents have already opted their kids out of the test.  For a moment, I’d like to debunk the opt-out.

To start, the state tests are a loosely tied direct result of the No Child Left Behind Act.  In order for the state to qualify for federal education funds (which is a lot money) the teachers, schools and districts have to be rated.  Here in NYS, that rating system has emerged as a series of tests.

The argument is the teachers feel pressure from the principals, who feel pressure from the superintendents and simply teach the test.  Add to that a sense of pressure that the kids may or may not feel as these tests approach – after all the teachers are rated on the result, as are the principals as are the superintendents.

Now, there is nothing new about using the children in the school to map funding needs from the federal government to the state to the districts.  The tests simply set a tangible criteria – whether fair or not, it is a constant.

Now to debunk the opt-out.

We all go through life and face ratings by outside forces.  For those of us who work for a large company there are one or two performance reviews a year.  Our raises, bonuses, options – total compensation is based on those ratings.

For those who own their own business (which I also do), the rating is even simpler.  Do  you have new business?  Do you have repeat business?  That is a very direct rating of the way you go about doing your job.

Back to the classroom.  These tests don’t have any impact on grades.  My kid can do really well or really poorly and the reality is, the grade that goes into the books at the end of the year is unaffected.

Isn’t this a way to get our children ready for the world – where results matter?  Let them take the test.  For us, it’s a free evaluation.  For our kids, it gets them used to having their performance reviewed.  For our schools, why should you be exempt?

My kids don’t get an opt-out.  To me as a parent, there is value in opting-in that has nothing to do with the school, and everything to do with the real world.  There is no way I could ever see going to my boss and saying, “You know, I’m feeling the pressure, I’m going to opt-out of this year’s review.”  Debunk the opt-out and lets position our children to be successful in the world they will graduate into.

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Work Travel and the Single Dad

Tbusiness-traveloday is one of those Sunday’s.  I could be home with the girls, picking 11.0 up from her camp reunion or helping 13.5 cook dinner.  Instead I’m at JFK, getting ready to get on a plane for a week in Los Angeles.  This is where work, travel and the single dad come together.

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Generally, a week in LA during the winter in NYC is not a bad thing.  And cards on the table I’ve done this before.  This is the first time though I’m out a full week since Risa passed, and I have to admit this one bothers me a little more.

I know the girls will be fine.  I know the house will be fine.  I have great systems and friends and networks in place in case something comes up.

But still, I’m not there.

There are tests, events, moments and unlike others who travel for work there is a parent there to share them with.  I guarantee this bothers me more than it does the girls but still its that point in time where I have to manage the demands of work, what goes on at home and all while I travel.

Normally, my business travel is a day sometimes two.  This time though it’s the full week, and that is kind of what is weighing on me most.

But it’s important for me to keep my job.  I need to support the house.  The girls need clothes and food.  The car needs gas and lets face it, we all like to do things.  Doing things means making the occasional sacrifice.

So, onto a plane I step, and off I go.  It’s a moment of work, travel and the single dad.  Or just call it life.

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The Green Behind Going Green

Green Behind the Bottom LineWe’ve all gotten the notifications, seen them on the bottom of monthly bills and sometimes even getting phone calls:  Company X is going green and we want to email you your statement, bill, correspondence.  Let’s face facts though, the green behind going green is all about money hitting the bottom line and not the stamp line on an envelope.

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My rant on this here three years ago not withstanding I am still amazed at the lack of transparency on this from the great minds of corporate America.

My most recent brush with this is via a new property management company my home owners association (HOA) is going to use.  In a strange introductory letter to residents, signed by the company’s owner and property management we got a generic email address to use for correspondence along with a 24/7 “voice mail” number with the promise to get back to me “the next business day.”  So this means, I have an issue at 6 PM on Friday, I’ll hear back on Monday, but the voice mail I leave a message on will be friendly.

Then came the second page (I kid you not) with the “going green” notification.  I have long advocated that our community go green and cut the cost of mailings.  The argument has always been that 100% of the residents in our community are not on email.  Tough to believe, but OK.

But, in the name of “going green” shouldn’t you offer me a website to register on?  Not asking me to fill out a form with pen and do the very ungreen thing of dropping a form in the mail?  Think about the trees needed to make the envelope and stamp  Not to mention the fuel for the trucks and vehicles to get that envelope to its final destination.

This “opportunity” to go green is not about bettering the environment.  It’s about cutting costs and helping the bottom line.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Just be transparent, don’t wrap yourself in good deeds, there is nothing wrong with helping the bottom line, even Gordon Gekko got that point.

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Balancing Business, FaceTime and Single Parenthood

One of the lessons of business that I’ve had to learn and re-learn along the way, is that not matter how connected you are via email, instant messenger, text message, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter-or whatever else-there is no replacement for FaceTime  with client, partner or someone you are either in business with or want to be in business with.

As a single parent, there is a lot to juggle to be omnipresent when necessary both at home where the demands are compelling and at work where the demands are compelling for different reasons.  My good friend Judy Martin is far more eloquent on the science of the balance of work and life, so I won’t try to recreate her work.

My experience here is far more practical and filled with trial and error-and less about the scientific approach.  There are points that you know will need planning and patience ( June leaps to mind quickly) and the sudden moments (the sick call leaps to mind here) where you have to be light on  your feet.

There is a balance to be struck.  There is nothing to me more important that my kids and being the best parent I can.  Long ago I surrendered trying to be two parents wrapped in one.  But it requires sacrifice to make it work.  Some of the sacrifices are waking up at four in the morning to go to the gym-I look at it as uninterrupted “me” time.  Some if it is being ahead of the issue and setting up ground rules early so when I have to spend the morning working with 9.0 on her science project, 11.5 knows she can’t be in the middle of the effort-and sometimes

In business, my approach to work-life balance is to be as available as I can be.  Yesterday (a Saturday) I did spent a few hours working on some business models to apply over the next few weeks.  This gives me some currency to handle surprises as they come up-and also allow me to be more flexible in my scheduling.

But FaceTime requires two or more people to be able to align their schedules-and with the press of calls, webex, email and chat conferences-the window to sit across from someone gets smaller and smaller.  Some of my best meetings are over breakfast.  While I have not really analyzed this, I believe it’s because the meeting takes place outside the crush of the rest of the day.

But it’s a balancing act-along a high wire without  a net below.  Be there for my kids.  Be there for work to provide for my kids.  Nothing beats FaceTime…it’s a balancing act though to keep it real.

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Some Things Just Don’t Get Easier I Guess

At this moment, I am taking a time out from pulling things together (and perhaps packing) for what is my first significant business trip in a year or so.  I’ve done some shorter trips-one and two-day and always relatively close to home.  This time it’s 2/3’s across the country and for a week.

During different points of my career path-travel has been a significant player-and admittedly during the last three year’s it’s been a little tougher.  Not the travel itself, but the getting the house lined up so I can be relatively worry free and focused on whatever business responsibilities I have ahead of me.

In talking to people I’ve worked with over the years who are married (either with or without kids at home), generally business trips are stressful.  There’s the getting sh*t done before you leave, and the constant tug to be connected to home.  It’s tough to turn that off and be 100% focused on business, but then is that really significantly different than the day-to-day grind?

For the single parent, along with fetching dry cleaning, making sure the underwear is clean, trying to narrow down the shoes that will make the trip, and the last-minute run to CVS (and the all important iPad movie rental purchases), there is also the home management.

Who’s going to be with the kids for the time?  The assumption is this will be someone you trust so you should at least get on the plane with some clarity of mind and peace of heart.  But then there’s also stocking the house with food, making sure all the carpools are covered, are there any school projects?, and then managing the stress on the kids-becuase it’s never easy on them.

And for the single parent, this comes after negotiating a regular week with all the challenges.

In temple last night I was idly chatting with someone and the subject of the kids came up (with regard to a temple event) and I mentioned I’d have to see what the girls were up to.  The person-who did not know I was widowed-asked if it was my weekend with the kids.  I responded it’s always my weekend.

Being a parent is 24/7-no one will doubt that.  Being a single parent though at times is like 36/7, because there’s always slightly more to do and one more hurdle to overcome.

 

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