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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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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Perception and Time

I'm Late, I'm LateI have a confession to make – more often than not I am punctual, meaning early to on time.  For almost everything.  If I wanted to further this confessional moment (which I guess I will), being late bothers me.  When it comes to perceptions and time I’ve realized recently it’s not always a shared trait in my house.

This pertains more to 14.5 (unless it’s a weekend morning where I have to wake 12.5 up).  Apparently being 5-10 minutes late for my older one is socially acceptable.  And according to her I need to change my outlook on time to meet her needs, since my getting her going an hour before an event (or 40 minutes before leaving for school) is just too much time.

There are few things in life that are nearly totally manageable by the individual.  There are always dependencies on other people (friends and family), other things (mass transit, traffic) or events (weather) that can impact when you arrive.  But you can control when you leave, and manage the expectation of when you’ll arrive.

Professionally, I have a schedule at work and I try to respect not only my time commitments but the time commitments others have made to be in meetings (or on calls) with me.  I try not to go over, I try to start on time and I try to be on time.  Obviously it’s a less than perfect system since there are a lot of variables you can’t control.

A recent case study for this was yesterday when instead of a nice easy day of calls from the home office I was summoned out to New Jersey and the corporate HQ.  So, instead of going to the gym and getting into my day I had to fight traffic and do all I could be on time for 1030 meeting – leaving my house with two and a half hours to travel.  I was on time.  I have no idea if the people who summoned me out to Basking Ridge know what it takes for me to be there at 1030 without notice.  In this case perception and time are one in the same.

Yesterday my brother (who is still living in my basement for those keeping score), asked me about a trip he had to make for some on the job training.  I thought travel time would be about 40 minutes under normal conditions.  I had no idea what traffic would be like on a Saturday morning and no insight into the weather.  So I told him to leave an hour early and kill 10 minutes.  I have no idea if that is what he did, but in this case perception and time are one in the same.

So back to 14.5.  She had to be at an outing with her class at temple at 11 this morning.  It’s raining pretty steadily here and generally passing all the shopping locations on a Saturday morning can add 20 minutes to a drive.  The place without traffic is about 20 minutes from our house.  So, I left with an hour early – creating a 20 minute cushion.

You’d think  she was two days early for the carrying on I had endured.  Apparently, if I give her 10 minutes to leave the house she’ll move quicker than if I give her 40 minutes.  This is based solely (according to her) on the amount of time she’ll be texting friends.  I am not completely sure I see the correlation, but that is the argument.

I try to share with her my thoughts that people form opinions on you based on how you present yourself, and punctuality is the first item in that list – even before appearance.  A moment where perception and time are linked.  I’m not sure she agrees with the preface of the argument though.  As far as she is concerned, five minutes late is on time.

As for 12.5, I guess if it doesn’t involve waking her up it there is no argument to be made for perception and time.

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The Two-Hour Delay

Two Hour DelaySo here I sit, in relative quiet in my house.  Morning TV news in the background is really the only thing breaking the silence.  For a Monday at seven that is not usual.  Today, we have another two-hour delay in our school district.  What to do with all that extra time?

As things have gone this winter, each snow event has been unique.  In this case, 12.5 and I were at the school because 14.5 is on the crew for the production of Grease when.  As the Sunday afternoon snow kept falling, I kept checking for word of a cancellation of the play.  But as they say on Broadway, the show must go on.

So, into a moderate snowfall we went to join 14.5 at the high school.  Sunday was a double performance.  14.5 had been there from noon, we were going to the 7PM showing.

As 12.5 and I got to our seats, my phone rang.  I answered it standing in the high school auditorium to hear our district superintendent share the word of a two-hour delay for today.  The irony was not lost on me.

The snow was picking up again outside, I was inside the school auditorium, the show would in fact go on – and tomorrow (today) would start with a two-hour delay – with a chance of cancellation.

So, I’m up actually earlier than my normal time checking emails and websites waiting to see if they actually cancel school.  My gym is opening late and morning group fitness classes are cancelled (there is a boot camp on Monday’s I like).  I did manage to take the garbage out to the curb.  I have a pumpkin bread baking in the oven.  I’ve achieved in box zero for my work email (first time in two months).  And it is relatively quiet.

Still, I could live without the two-hour delay (again).  But I’ll go get the girls going in a bit and we’ll get the day started at nine this morning – instead of the usual seven.  Just a two-hour delay.


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Actions and Reactions

action and reaction The last few days have made me realize it was time to instill a few new lessons.  And maybe I didn’t handle it as well as I could – but my girls will learn that in life there are actions and reactions – and sometimes even consequences like a tough conversation with peers, or having to face up to our own decisions.

In a lot of ways, my girls have had to grow up a little faster than I would like, so I’ve tried to shelter them some from certain moments in life.  I’ve tried to help them through some uncomfortable moments, take the lead with teachers and parents when tough discussions had to be had.

It may be time though for them to face up to more of their actions and the reactions they’ll get from others.  The goal is not to unleash the world on them, but to make them understand the Yin and Yang of life.

Case study one came Sunday.  We spent the early part of the weekend skiing, and got home around nine Saturday night.  I was up around 7AM (normal for the weekend) and did my shopping and hit the gym.  I came home around 11 and found 12.5 up and messing around on her phone.  I told her she had an hour and a half to her softball practice and a little more than an hour before we had to leave.  I even made her breakfast.

After eating, I told her practice started in about 40 minutes and we needed to leave in 20 to be on time.    40 minutes later, she came down the stairs, and we set out on a 20 minute drive to her practice five minutes before it started.

She put her headphones in and didn’t say a word to me during the drive – so I had time to think.  I decided she would have to walk in alone and explain to her teammates why she was 20 minutes late.  I’m not sure she understood or even realized what I was doing, but that’s OK for now.

Case study two came tonight when I picked up 14.5 from play rehearsal at school.  Among her activities is a class at our temple that meets once a month.  The session this month conflicts with the rehearsal schedule.  We talked about her going to her temple class on Wednesday.  When she got into the car today she asked if she could skip the class.

In a moment I’d like to have back I abruptly told her yes, but she had to inform the rabbi and cantor she would not be in class this week.  It’s her decision, not mine and she can live with it.

In calming down from that conversation I realized that maybe I had been making things too easy on both girls – and they don’t realize that actions and reactions have consequences.  So, now my new campaign is to help them learn this little life lesson.

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Technology Run Amok

Technology Run AmokAs someone who tries to be on the forefront of the tech curve, I think it’s important to recognize when perhaps, just maybe technology has run amok.  In certain use-cases with certain technology I’d say we are there.

The use-case I have in mind today is what is now the prevalent use of phone-trees for incoming calls from customers.  You know these, you almost cringe when you hear the automated voice say, “Press 1 for English.”

For some context – I rarely initiate calls to any company.  Largely because I don’t want to get lost in the phone maze, and practically because more often than not I can get what I need accomplished done quicker via website, app or even Twitter.  So this week I had to call my cable company and the local Walgreen’s about a prescription.  What I got (aside from lost time) is a stark reminder of technology run amok.

First, Cablevision.  I understand why they have the phone tree to help direct customer calls to the right product team.  Like most modern MSO’s they have ISP, cable and phone services.  My issue though is I’ve been getting several emails a week for several weeks asking me to call for an account review.  It turns out after more than five minutes of pushing buttons, selecting options and eventually setting up a call back – all they wanted was an updated cell phone.  For real.

Then there is my neighborhood Walgreen’s.  Now this should be easy.  My questions are about something I bought in the store or the pharmacy counter.  That should be two, maybe three button pushes.  So yesterday morning while waiting for 14.0 I decided to call to check on a prescription’s status.  Eight button pushes in, I could not get to one of the two pharmacists on duty.  The Walgreen’s app doesn’t give status on a pending prescription, so I had to go walk into the store to find out there was a snag at the doctor’s office.

That is a lot of listening, deciding options and button pushing for very little reward.  That can’t be the model these companies are hoping to replicate in customer service.  I get it.  The phone trees should help steer the call so the right person gets the call and the right answer can be given.  That would be good customer service.

But this is a case where technology has run amok, and more options does not help get to a better result.

There are times thought when technology can be an asset.  During a recent cross-country flight on Virgin America – the outlet at my seat was not working. After my laptop died I pulled out my iPad and opened Twitter.  I sent out a tweet saying my GoGo inflight WiFi experience was great, but my seat outlet did not work on Virgin America.  From that tweet, before I landed Virgin America gave me a $50 credit on my next flight.  A company that can use technology to make sure the customer experience is optimized – it does work.

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Opening Day and Throw Back of Sorts

Mr. MetWith significantly less planning than I used to use in my school days, I managed to be home today for opening day and as my beloved Mets hit the field at Citi Field, I could not help but think this opening day was a throw back of sorts for me-back to the days where I came up with reasons to be home to watch the season start.

It was not a perfect system (and yes I know my mom reads my blog), but by and large I manage to cough, scam and finagle a way to watch opening day most years.

Today though was a little different.


For one, by the time 8:30 rolled around I had forgotten it was opening day.  I was on my fourth call of the day and was listening to a product discussion while pouring coffee and grabbing my keys.  I knew I had a 9AM call as well.  I would head for the train station, take the call, get on the train and hit the office.

But then I found out during that call at nine I would also have a 9:30 call with some high up in my company folks, so reliability would be key.  In the office I was going to catch up with a few folks, no customer meetings today in person (all calls) so instead of parking and getting on the train, I looped around the parking lot and headed home.

It was just as the 9:30 call ended that I re-realized it was opening and here I was sitting at home with just hours to go before first pitch.  Back to the days of Lee Mazzilli in the outfield, Craig Swan on the mound and John Stearns behind the plate.  Today it would be the more updated version-but I would be able to watch opening day.  A throw back of sorts.

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The Camp Call and the Promise

At least for right now, and the next week and a half, rehabbing my knee and visiting day for camp with the girls will be intertwined.  And for better or worse, it’s going to be a very close call.

Last Saturday was the first of the seven calls I’ll get from the girls from camp.  All is well with them, they are making new friends and reuniting with friends from last year.  They sounded great, up beat and really enjoying themselves.

Then I made what could be a mistake.

9.5 asked me how my knee was doing and if I would be off crutches and able to go swimming on visiting day at camp.  I said, “Of course I will be, not to worry.”

Then the first dose of reality sank in.  If this weekend were visiting weekend I would not be able to go swimming and I would be on crutches.

The good news is I have a week and a half.  I see my surgeon Monday and there is no reason to think I won’t be able to get off crutches and out of the massive brace.  But there will be the hurdle of getting the new “activity” brace in time.  That will be very close.

So, I did what I do best.  I started planning now.  I’ve already spoken with two places about getting it to me.  I can certainly do what I need, and I can’t believe it won’t be possible.

Then the next hurdle, swimming.  Right now, there is one section of stitches that has not yet dissolved.  Again I see the surgeon on Monday.  So between now and then either they dissolve, or the surgeon will have to work some magic.

Then came reality dose number 2 today.  While I think I am making pretty good progress with my knee.  I can bear weight on it, I can get around without my crutches on it, I am walking (short distances) comfortably without a brace on it.  So I got on the exercise bike at PT today.

That was an eye opener.  I know it’s a long slow process, but I expected to be able to complete a full revolution of the pedal once in 10 minutes-forward or backward.  Hell, I’ve been riding bicycles of one form or another since I was two years old.

No such luck.  About 65% pedaling forward and 75% backward was all I could do.

So another ACL patient was on the bike next to me and shared it took her two weeks of work to get to a full revolution.  But still, I was hoping (maybe expecting) better.

So, the girls are good and I am still ahead of schedule on my road to recovery.  I just need to be more measured in my promises and my expectations.

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Sick Call: The New Twist

Another day-another sick call and another race home.  This time though it was a new twist on the old theme.

For the first time (and I want to reiterate the first time), my sitter who is here in the afternoon with the girls came up sick.  So instead of a call from the school nurse at 9:15, this time it was a text from her at 12:15.

The good news for me was the meeting part of my day was largely done with-but I had to do some prep for three key  meetings tomorrow.  Work that is easily transferable to the train.

Based on timing, I could make it.  11.5 would be home about 10 minutes before I got home and I would go right to the bus stop to meet 9.0.  That all fell into place quickly.

The wild card though is tomorrow-as noted, I have three key meetings tomorrow.  Not a lot of room to slide things around.  So along with the meeting prep, I spent some time coming up with a tomorrow strategy as well.

All of that in place, in time to do the Hebrew school car pool-get back home do a little more work and make dinner.

Just another day juggling on the single parent express.

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Sick Call Redux

It happened again. Got out of the subway and there was the vibration of voicemail on my iPhone.  took a look at the missed calls-it was the school nurse.  And so another day went from normal to flipped on its head.

This time it was 11.5 with a stomach bug of some kind.  I tried to get hold of the sitter-but could not track her down, so it was jump a train and make the run or hope to hear back from the sitter…

Back down the subway steps and back to Penn Station I went.

Just once I wish that call would come before I got on the train, or maybe half way through my trip.  But it never does.

Upshot-11.5 is feeling better.  Looks like it’s school tomorrow for her and since my Thursday was such a mess, I’m back in the office on Friday-going to try it again.

That call is still the toughest element to handle as a single parent.  I’m pretty sure at this point I can plan for just about anything-but undoing the plans is often my undoing.  I’m not sure its supposed to get better or easier, thankfully it’s generally infrequent.

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