8765 Times 6

RisaThere are 8765 hours in a year, 52,590 of them have ticked off since Risa passed away.  Probably because of the timing, it becomes a strange time of year for me (and I think for my girls as well).  While the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of year,” there are probably more than just me who would stop and question that.  8765 times 6 – there’s a lot to think about.

Who’d have thunk there would come a time I have two teen-aged girls in high school – much less thriving in that environment.  16.5 is in honor roll and 15.0 is pulling a low 90 GPA.  Far better than I ever did, clearly taking after their mom.

Along with a second transition to high school, we’ve (and I say we because it’s been the three of us)  conquered an introduction to driving, a change of sport from softball to tennis, a job change for me and just getting through another 8765 hours with the rest of life’s challenges.

Reflecting this time of year is probably normal – give or take this is when people (who make them) will begin to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I was chatting with a friend who is also widowed – and we were talking about how tough this time of year can be as an only parent where you’re dealing with the family and everyone is happy.  And it’s not to say we’re not happy – but there is a part missing.

What would Risa think about her girls excelling in school? I know how proud I am of it and I know she would be proud too – but what would she think?

And would 16.5 be a different (maybe better, maybe worse) driver if there was another voice offering guidance?  I don’t know.  We don’t have that second voice, and I don’t pretend there is a second voice.

In the last 8765 hours 15.0 made a change from softball to varsity tennis.  She walked onto the tennis court just before Labor Day this year and became a tennis player and has taken to the sport with determination.  I know Risa was a very determined person as well, happy to see she’s taken on the best of the traits.

16.5 entered the working world over the summer and excelled as a lifeguard at a water park near our house.  She embraced the challenge of working and becoming responsible – maturing into a woman.  Now we begin thinking about test prep and college search.  I know those are the parts of life Risa would have cherished, and despite the challenges I know it’s a time I will cherish with her and her sister.

15.0 has also become expressive in art – a skill I only wish I had, but again its a skill her mother possessed.  I can’t help but smile when I walk into her room and see her work on display on the walls.

And because managing life with me and two teen-aged girls isn’t quite challenging enough I decided to change jobs this year too.  It was one of those situations where it was time to make a change and the right opportunity came along – but its in those moments where I try to think through important changes, don’t really have that life partner to talk to and know I’m about to make a life changing decision – the clock slows down, and a few of those 8765 hours feel like days at a time.

I wonder, what would Risa think about all of this?  Am I doing the right thing?  Would my father be proud of life I’ve created for my family?

I’d like to think the answer is yes – because that will help get me through the next 8765 hours and changes our lives will face again.

 

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Respecting Change

Solution 1 2 or 3 Choice Showing Strategy Options Decisions Or SolvingOver the years – as the girls have gotten older I’ve tried to enable them to make more decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are minor (what’s for lunch) and sometimes they are bigger (picking out a dress for a party).  As they’ve gotten older I’ve worked hard to support their decisions – even when I disagreed.   In that I hope they’ve learned about respecting change.

When the girls were younger – in a lot of ways life was simpler.  I would pick the meal, pick the clothes or the bed time.  As they’ve gotten older and become young women – those decisions have been ceded and sometimes with some effort I’ve been respecting change.

Heading into Thanksgiving week is always a mixed bag for me.  Thanksgiving is actually one of the holidays I like.  But it runs head long into the week when Risa passed.  From there we jump into the holidays, and then the long days of winter.

The change cycle though seems to keep moving.  And rather than fighting it, I think I’ve realized respecting change is just as important as realizing it’s out there.

So, 14.0 has given up softball after more than eight years to focus on tennis.  Her decision to make.  I respect that.

So, 16.5 declares her independence with authority.  Her prerogative as teen for sure – and I respect that.

Respecting change is probably a healthy approach – but certainly not an easy plan to carry out.  Day-to-day, with my eyes wide open I try to learn something new from my girls and day-to-day they make decisions – and I try to respect them.

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A Lesson Learned, A Lesson Planned

A lesson learnedI hope in life I never become too old to learn a lesson.  Last night after a brand new experience, I realized not only a lesson learned, but a lesson planned for my girls.

I’ve been driving for 30 years now.  I think I have driven a car in 48 of the 50 states and at least five countries (without putting too much thought into it).  Last night for the first time in all those miles I suffered a blow out while driving.

The good news, I was alone in the car and never lost control.  The back left tire blew while I was rolling my way on the world-famous Long Island Expressway.  I pulled over, took a look at the tire (down to the rim), assessed where I was on the road (narrow shoulder) and where I was geographically and decided my best move was driving half a mile to the next exit and getting into a parking lot just off the road.

I called my roadside company.  Maybe it was some kind of karma pay back for my post yesterday about technology running amok, because everything I lamented yesterday came to pass as I was stuck in a never-ending phone tree.  After finally reaching a person they told me at least an hour.

Being able-bodied, I decided to change the tire myself.  Now, I have helped people change tires, I have seen tires changed.  Until last night I had never changed a tire myself.  Check that off the bucket list.

About 15 minutes after I started, I was underway with a donut tire on my car and heading to a place to get a new full-sized tire for my car.  I spent another 10 minutes trying to get to anyone at Allstate Roadside to cancel the call, but that is impossible.  So I left.  About 10 minutes into that trip, the tow truck called to tell me they were at my location.

The one thing the experience confirmed for me is that before either of my kids head out on their own in a car, they will learn how to change a tire.  Not that I expect them to do that, but they should know how to.  They’ll have roadside (I would highly doubt it would be Allstate BTW) to call.  But knowledge is power.

So, I’m not too old.  A lesson learned, a lesson planned.  Keep your eyes open for that lesson you can learn, and pass along.  You never know when it will show up.

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Evolving, Changing But Still The Same

Evolving and ChangingI think it’s the kind of lesson you learn early in life, but you need a few years (OK decades) behind you to fully understand it.  As we go through life we are always evolving and changing.  But some how we’re still the same.

The reality is we can make changes around the edges.  Actions, thoughts, feelings but we are the people we are.  Those edges are what differentiates.

I can like the friends my children choose, but I don’t have to like their actions and decisions.  It doesn’t make them bad people and I don’t think it makes me judgemental.  WE are who we are and our life experiences color the way we see things.  What is black and white to me has shades of gray to others who take a peek in.

But we can’t stop evolving or changing.  We need to evolve and change to be alive.  But we also can’t change the people we are.

I can look around – inward and outward – and say I’m a good guy.  I try to be consistent in my decisions, but evolve and change so those decisions are colored by the changes.

But I’m also (I hope) true to myself.  And I want my kids to be true to themselves.

My kids should not be the ones throwing food or being disrespectful.  Its my expectation on them and on myself.  I hope I am not disrespectful and I hope I can show those around me I am a good-hearted person.  Perfect? No.  But open, honest and able to evolve and change – but still remain the same.  I hope.

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Change v. Evolution

Stages in human evolutionA long time ago while sitting in an executive meeting with members of the “C” ring of a large company I heard an executive explain a 180-degree change in course by stating with a straight face, “My thoughts on that have evolved.”  That line has stuck with me for more than 10 years.  I’ve even used it.  This week though, I’ve been holding court in my head in an interesting case of Change v. Evolution.

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One of the issues with this debate, the plaintiffs in the case are both me.

I like to think of myself as an evolved person.  As a single parent with two girls I have to be in touch with enough of my feelings to be able to talk to my girls.  Now that one is about to be a teen and the other is holding on to tween, the conversations are very different.  I think I am effective enough though to hold my own with both scenarios.

Then come other aspects of life-when I’m not at work and not at home and have to communicate.  That can be a challenge for me.  I even stopped to get some testimony on this theory today and my thoughts were validated.  I do struggle.  But I think I am better at those conversations now than I was when I was in college or when I was married.

To borrow from the executive mentioned at the beginning, my abilities in this arena have evolved.  When I looked up the difference between “evolution” and “change” it was an interesting read.

Via dictionary.com evolution is a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development.  The same site says change is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

By my read, over the course of the (gulp) 23 years since college my ability to communicate has evolved in the truest sense of the word.  And I’d like to think the evolution will continue.    But change seems more immediate and less nuanced.  Yes, in this case life is better with change (and the change agent) that what it would be if left alone.

While man gradually stood through the course of evolution, change (and it’s agents) can be far tougher.  Think back to the change in our history on 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombings.  It’s a sudden shock that alters the reality.

In my house, I try to bring on change through evolution-long and short-term evolution projects.  My kids deserve that, and frankly I can handle that.  Change in the house that comes on suddenly tends to disrupt our house and we’ve had enough of that.

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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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Teaching a Middle Aged Dog New Tricks

As life rolls by, and life experiences pile up sometimes it becomes clear that being set in your ways is not always the best way to work through an issue and certainly does not help achieve change at any level.

So, even an old (or in my case middle-aged) person needs to learn something new.

I’ve never considered myself to be change averse.  The longest I’ve ever held a job is five years, early in my career I think I moved twice a year just to keep myself from accumulating too much stuff.

But then life happens.  You get settled.  You have kids, you take on more responsibility and that embrace of change slowly loosens and perhaps even worse you become set in  your ways.

Our lives though have been filled with change and transition and sometimes through that you change and adapt to survive.  As a single parent and care giver it became easy for me to take on everything.  A force of one, getting things done.  For better or worse for a very long time it worked.  Life without checks and balances made decision-making easy.  Having to think for three or four at a time became a way of life, and hopefully you made the right decisions.  (I like to think more often than not I did).

But as life changes, so do the people around you and their roles.  So change and adjust I must, because life changes and we have to be ready for it and embrace those moments.

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Perspectives In A Changed World

From myupperwest.comI had an exchange with 10.5 today (through a closed bathroom door might I add) that made me chuckle slightly, and appreciate the differences of the changed world in which we live.  And in this case, I am not talking about change as a bad thing, or the catalyst for bad things.

She took the phone into the bathroom for privacy while talking to her best friend.  When I walked by the door and heard the muffled voice I asked (through the door) if she was in her phone booth.  She replied, “What’s a phone booth?”

I answered back that it was an obscure reference, never mind.

Today’s exchange brought to mind one that I had with both girls several months ago when I dug out my old radio bag-that still had my Marantz tape recorder, microphone, several mic flags and of all things cassette tapes-both of my kids were most fascinated by the rolls of quarters that were still tucked away in there.  “I needed them,” I told them, “to do my work.  Its how a story got on the air quickly.”

“Why didn’t you take out your cell phone?” 8.5 asked me.  A question that cemented the realization that my kids only know a world of the cell phone.

It’s a changed world.  I was talking to another parent at one of my daughter’s softball games the other night-and we were talking about growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s-when our bikes meant freedom, and we were out the door after breakfast and knew to be home (or at least close by) about the time the street lights flipped on at night.

But that’s not today’s world.  And that’s not what this is about.

Instead, it’s about the icons that we know shift.  Has the iPhone replaced the phone booth?  Remember the scene from one of the Chris Reeve Superman movies, when he was looking for a phone booth to change in, and all he found were the partial phone booths mounted on posts?  It was the start of the modular life.

Dropping 10.5 off at her friend’s house tonight, we were talking about my aversion for electric cars.  I believe they are a feel good green effort rather than a true change.  I’ll buy a flex-fuel car-and look to not put gas into it, I truly hope the gas station my daughter’s know today will be the phone booth of my grandchildren’s world.

Until then though-even in the latter stages of my early 40’s I can remember fondly just a little, right?

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