Spring Time Of Year Again

spring into summerEven though the weather here in NY is very un-spring like, given all the stuff going on it’s spring for sure.  This spring is going to unfurl into a different kind of summer here, as only one of the girls is going to camp.  Make no doubt about it though, it is the spring time of year again.  But before that, we still have to navigate softball, track, finals, packing and new this year getting 16.0 ready for a job.

I’m hoping I am not short-changing the packing this year.  My thought is since it’s only one going to camp I don’t need all the time needed to pack, so 13.5 is not yet started camp packing.  We’ll see how that goes.

For 16.0, she’ll be lifeguarding at a water park about 30 minutes from the house.  What I hope she appreciates (I’ve said it to her exactly this way) getting her to her job is not my job.  Hopefully there will be carpools and the occasional über.

In the meantime – both girls need to keep focus on the end of the school year.  13.5 blustered her way through a research paper this weekend, and 16.0 has already taken an AP test.

So, packing will start soon for camp.  16.0 begins work over Memorial Day weekend – it’s spring time of year again – lot’s to get done before summer sets in, no matter what the weather is like.

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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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Still Talking

Still TalkingIt’s been nearly a month since I’ve managed to carve out the 20 minutes or so needed to update my blog.  Not that there haven’t been 20 minute stretches where I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, but rather just finding the mental (and sometimes physical) energy to compose 250-400 words in a coherent order has been tough lately – but that doesn’t mean I’m not still talking.

Most of my energy over the last month has been focused on getting started in a new job.  Without really meaning to, I went from one really large company to another.  While the job is very similar, it’s very exciting to be starting out on a new path with new challenges.

That new path has included two trips to Atlanta (corporate offices for this job), Toronto (to meet with customers) and a few extra runs into the city to meet with colleagues and customers.

Now a month in – I think we’re starting to find the groove and get into a rhythm of work and balancing the rest.

The spring also brings with it the bigger track season for 15.5, the more important softball season for 13.5 (including the school team) and the start of obstacle course races for all of us that get sprinkled in.

In looking at the school calendar, next week is also the close of the third quarter – which means its time to start getting into the home stretch of school and get the summer all teed-up.  This year 13.5 is going back to camp (we’ll do some shopping) and 15.5 (who will be 16 in the summer) is staying home and working.  No telling what that means just yet.

So yeah, I’m still talking – just more of it out loud (and often to myself) than on here just because for the only parent – spring is the busy season.

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Holidays – Time for Family, Tradition and Our Own Things

netflix and chillWith Thanksgiving 2015 behind us, and the hustle of the holiday season hitting crescendo until New Year and the start of 2016 – I was struck by the evolution of our holidays.  It’s a time for family (we did that), tradition (we have that) and now we can each do our own thing too.

Over the four days of Thanksgiving, along with dinner Thursday with family and friends around the table – we spent time together in the city, at home and doing things we like (watching hockey and just goofing off).

During the Thursday dinner – as much tradition as we have was on display – with Turkey, cornbread stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

But what made me realize that we also are able to break away and do our own things came to me on Friday.  I was up early and playing pond hockey (even though it was in the 50’s).  13.0 had to sit through the game so I could take her to meet up with a camp friend.  While all of this was going on 15.5 was heading into the city with her friends to celebrate one of their birthdays and see a play.

Saturday 15.5 and I headed into the city to meet up with 13.0 and we headed downtown with some friends for fried chicken on the lower east side.  After wandering around some – we were home in time for the second and third periods of the Islanders’ game (they won).

Sunday the girls spent with Netflix (but not the chill) before we had some dinner.

So yeah, the holidays (2015) are here.  Time for family, tradition and our own things.  There’s plenty of time for them all.

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Camp Good Grief – Another Year

Camp Good GriefWith just one more day left in summer for the girls, school here starts Wednesday, they spent last week on the east end of Long Island at their fourth year of Camp Good Grief.  If you want me to save you the click (although I would suggest taking the journey), Camp Good Grief is a week-long program for kids who have lost a close relative (think parent, sibling or grandparent).  This year at Camp Good Grief 15.0 was a counselor and 12.5 was a fourth year camper (normally it’s only three years).

Over the years I’ve used Camp Good Grief as a check in point to the emotional status of the girls.  They spend time in art therapy and group therapy – and on the last day of camp I can get feedback from both.  This year I’ll admit my level of concern was a little lower than normal, and with good reason according to the therapists – 12.5 is doing more than OK.

The broader experience this year though was both girls (although 15.0 more) got the feeling of giving back to the micro-community they belong to – children who have lost a loved one.  It happens.  It happened to me.  It’s part of life.  But there is a sense of peace that comes with knowing you’re not alone (at least that is what my girls have told me).

15.0 had such a great experience, she’s ready to sign up for another year as a counselor.  12.5 will be eligible to be a counselor next year – and it looks like she’ll apply as well.

Three out of the four years my girls have gone to Camp Good Grief, it’s been at the Peconic Dunes Camp Grounds closer to the end of the North Fork of Long Island than anything else.  It’s about an hour from our door to drop off – so it’s a long week of driving and logistics for me as the girls continue with soccer (15.0) and softball (12.5), and getting ready for school and catching up with friends.

For me though, it really has been time well spent.  Sure, the year it was only 20 minutes from our house (at a different camp grounds) it was even easier.  But to borrow (and butcher) Teddy Roosevelt, no one is saying it’s going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

Camp Good Grief – another year in the books and it looks like another year ahead.  And it’s OK.  I’ll put the time in.  I’ve tried to teach the girls about giving back to their community and family – so how could I complain when they are giving back to their micro-community?

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The Staycation-Adjusting Along The Way

staycationIn a first for us – I am taking a week off from work, and we’re not going anywhere.  Call it a staycation of sorts – but largely we’re not home.  For the staycation to work we’ll be adjusting along the way right until school starts a week from Tuesday.

Part of the issue is school starting a week before Labor Day – so the summer that was already feeling very short just got even shorter.

This staycation starts each day at Camp Good Grief where 15.0 is a counselor for the 11-year-old group and 12.5 is in her final (OK extra) year as a camper.  Normally when we do this, I work the week from a Starbucks near where the camp is being held.  But this year I decided to take the week off – because after camp ends at three in the afternoon – more running around ensues.

15.0 has soccer practice each evening from five to seven-30 and 12.5 has softball practice three times this week from five-30 to seven-30.  In between we’ll try to eat something, get hydrated and I may even get to the gym a few times this week.

In year’s past I was able to work out my schedule to be able to do calls and meetings while the girls were at camp, and then catch up after camp.  It won’t work this year.  And because there is not another week off before school starts, we’ll still have to fit in some last-minute back to school stuff.

A trip to the mall or at least a store to get sneakers will be an evening jaunt this year.  The hour or so to set up the locker and walk the schedule looks like it will be done in stealth mode on the day before school – when the teachers are there but there aren’t supposed to be students around.

With all of that going on – and a lot of vacation time available, I figured take one thing out of the picture – so here I am on “vacation” trying to cram more into a day than normal.  For the staycation, adjusting along the way will be the key to success.

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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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Dad Versus Dude

dad versus dudeDepending upon the setting, there are a lot of terms that can be used to describe me.  At work I hope its professional.  At home it’s usually dad.  To some it’s probably a-hole.  Others see me as a widow.  Some know me as a single (or as I prefer only) parent.  With my friends, I hope its kind of like a good dude they know – but that’s a tough line to walk when you battle dad versus dude.

Labeling things and people tend to make it easy to interact with them, but as you look at the landscape there are many labels we all wear – and usually several at the same time.

I’m dad 24/7.  Even over the summer when the girls aren’t home, I’m dad.  A case in point was last week while I was in California for work and 15.0 was in Canada on a camp trip.  Despite what the American Express Serve website says, it turns out her Serve debit card did not work internationally.  After two calls to Amex, the dad in me had to figure out a way to get my daughter money while she was traveling.  The dude in me wanted to go hit the beach with some work friends.  Both were accomplished, but I had to be dad before dude.

That problem came up during a quarterly business review for the group I report to (the reason I was in California) and was ensconced in a professional setting.  Not a single one of my co-workers knew in real-time that I was handling an issue with one of my kids and juggling communication between Amex, my 15-year-old and the group in the room for the QBR.  Hopefully I was able to be professional and a good dad at the same time.

(The end to the Amex story is a little complicated.  First it took me nearly three days to find someone to actually talk to with the ability to even explain to me what occurred.  It was another day before American Express came back to me with a solution so this problem won’t be an issue again.)

These types of overlapping moments are not the exception – but the rule.  While its great to be able to label and classify people and situations, it’s never clear.  There’s a fine line between divorced and separated.  I hope people see me as a friend, dude and dad who is also an only parent – I don’t want to be a widow first to anyone.

But while you control how your reflect yourself back to the rest of the world – how they interpret those signals is out of your control.  I’m sure there are more than a few who would consider me to be an a-hole.  I’m OK with that.  It’s not something I set out to do (I think).  But it’s their interpretation of what they see based on their lens.  And I’m OK with that.

The reality is I am all of the things I think I am:  dad, dude, widow, only parent, professional, even a-hole.  How you wear those labels though is the way others perceive you.

When it comes down to dad versus dude – I’m OK with being both, probably 75/25 or so.

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Balancing Time, Expectations and Reality

balancing expectationsIt’s about the mid-point in the part of the summer where he girls are away at camp – and my list of things I want to get done really has not done any shrinking.  It’s probably what I face each summer trying to balance time, expectations and reality to accomplish all my summer goals.

For some reason though this year it seems to be going a little slower.  I’ve had a bit more travel at the start of the summer, and I’ve had more work deadlines that usual – but still the list is not getting any shorter.

I think I realized my conundrum today when it took me more than 10 hours to go from making sauce to putting a lasagna in the oven.  Granted, not everyone starts a lasagna by making sauce first – but I do.  So, if you start there (it’s about a three-hour process), that 10 and a half hours is a little exorbitant.

Granted, in between I did two product demos, four calls and helped trouble shoot a compatibility issue.  But still, it’s the perfect metaphor for simply being way behind where I should be in the summer.

I go through both girls’ rooms in the summer – get rid of a lot of crap and give them at least for a day when they get home from camp a clean start.  It doesn’t stay that way long, but I can say I did what I could.  On top of that, I have a few home projects I am trying to get done – which are barely at the scratch the surface level.

There are three weeks to go – so free time will be the medium I use to get things done as I try balancing time, expectations and reality – or simply get some shit done.

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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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