Your Best and Hope

do your best and hopeGenerally, I try to keep things positive and keep it in perspective.  It would be easy to lament the things I’m either missing or have been without in life.  But I don’t think that serves me well – instead (and I use this metaphor a lot) I look in the mirror in the morning and hope the guy looking back knows you do your best and hope for the right outcome.

Admittedly, it sounds a little overly thought out – but a friend’s Facebook post recently got me thinking about not only my life my the lives of my kids.  Without sharing more than she may want in this forum – she’s a 9/11 widow and her daughter – who was a new-born on that day in 2001 recently went found her father’s name at the memorial in NYC.  My friend posted the text exchange she had with her daughter including a picture of the name.

Do your best and hope is probably standard thinking for any parent – or at least I would hope that it is.  But in the case of an only parent where you play two roles but can only be one person it has a different feel.

I grew up without a father.  He passed when I was in kindergarten.  I don’t think I missed out on anything in life – but I admit I didn’t have a blueprint to be a father.  This is when your best and hope has to work.

My kids are growing up without a mother.  What will their future as parents be? Was my best good enough? I hope so.

In my house, my kids have a closeness I never had with my brothers.  I’m not sure that’s just a function of girls and boys.  I’m not sure its a function of parenting.  Even when my older brother lived with us for a year, I still never felt that bond that I can see in my girls.

Back then I told my kids we were opening our house because that’s what you do for family – it was the best we could do at the time.  You do your best and hope.

So as we embark on the next school year with all kinds of firsts – 17.5 will drive to school, graduate in June, apply to college while 15.0 will move into honors English and advanced art classes – is my best enough?

It’s what I can offer.  Everyday I tell the guy in the mirror – just do your best and hope.

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Being Able to Step Back

foot stepsThe words of warning are well-intentioned I know, and kind of redundant.  As a single parent of a now 13.5 year old and an 11-year-old I’ll have two girls in the teens together.  Yeah, they warn of the teen years (especially for girls), as of now my strategy to survival is being able to take a step back.

Right now it’s more the case with the older than the younger, there is a lot of feeling out to see just how far she can go – and at the same time some clinging to make sure she stays safe.  I fully know this will change over the next few years.

As she tries to branch out, I try to let her do it and explore the world around her.  I cherish the moments she decides to cling to her childhood and just hang – but I also want her to be independent and able to be out in the world.

Being able to step back though is not quite as easy as it sounds.  You have to be willing to live with mistakes and lessons.  Being able to step back means giving up some control so she can get out and explore the world.

Friday I went to pick her up after school at a friend’s house to find her there with her friend and a boy.  The plan was they were going to go out to dinner with a third girl and all come back to my house.  This would have been the first boy (minus the kids in the neighborhood) coming over.

Today its a trip to the mall with a friend with a friend.  We don’t live close enough for two 13 year old’s to make it to the mall on their own.  The friend’s mother is driving them there and will likely be in the mall.  I fully expect the two of them to venture off and go make up shopping or something like that.

At this moment I ask myself if I did my job to prepare her for this.  Did I show her how to be aware of her surroundings?  Can she find her way from end to end?  I think yes, but we’ll find out.

With a deep breath today I find myself being able to step back….

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Nosebleed Around 30K

After a whirlwind type weekend in Denver with the girls and mom (we were there for the Bat Mitzvah of my cousin’s middle daughter) we set out for the near full day of travel home.  To prevent having to take a flight before nine in the morning out of Denver I booked us with a layover (90 minutes) at DFW before continuing onto New York.

Generally, I don’t have a huge preference on airlines, I think they are all pretty much the same.  Given that, from my CBS days I have a lot of equity (miles) built up at American.  So when I was booking this trip I looked at a bunch of options and when all was said and done, based on timing, price and where there would be a lay over American worked out.

Having lived in Dallas for three years, I know there is a high probability that outdoor temperatures will be near 100 degrees and yesterday was no different.  Add that to a plane baking in the sun and the temperature inside the plane can easily approach 110 or more.  Add to that an old-school (but nicely refurbished inside) S80 with a poor AC system until the jets were on and the conditions were right for an uncomfortable sit on the tarmac.

As the temperature inside the idling plane approached 100 degrees the AA crew offered up some water.  That was nice of them, certainly a plus.  Finally (but on time) the plane pushed off the gate and the jets fired up-so full throttle AC was on.  As the plane cooled I fell asleep while 9.5 and 12.0 were playing games on their iPad.

About 40 minutes into the flight, I am guessing around 30,000 feet (on our way to 34,000) 12.0 woke me up to tell me 9.5 had a nose bleed.  I looked around, the seat belt light was still on, but I saw a uniformed member of the flight crew walking our way.  So I stopped him and asked for some napkins.  Here is where I wish I had gotten names, but I did not.

The first man (who it turns out was an off-duty first officer just taking the flight to LGA) got 9.5 some napkins and an ice pack.  Seeing all of this, one of the flight attendants jumped in and brought some more water and a couple of cold compresses.  The 35 or so minutes sitting in a 100+ degree plane dried things out to the point that 9.5 got the nose bleed.

Easily I could have taken her to the bathroom and dealt with it, but with some “light chop” outside the plane it was better to let the flight crew do its job and they did it well.

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Kettle Corn Poll

So an interesting debate came up recently with health club girl. (For those not in the know including mom, she and I have been dating the last couple of weeks) She ordered kettle corn for her daughter at camp, and I believe everyone loves kettle corn. She does not think this love is universal. What are your thoughts?

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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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In many ways I see part of my role as a parent to be an enabler for my kids.  Enable them to succeed and grow.  Whether it’s the best strategy or not I try to allow them to have experiences at their own pace and when I think the time is right.  For example, when the time I enabled them to go to sleep away camp and have a summer full of fun.

The key to this is being confident that they will be successful-and enjoy the experience.

Today is one of those moments for 11.5.  She is going to an Islanders’ game at the Coliseum without me.  It’s a first for her and a first for us.  I think in this case it’s me who may be a little more up tight than she is about this experience.

In trying to be a good parent and exposing my kids to all kinds of events, she’s been to the Coliseum for many Islanders’ games.  Add to that the circus, Disney on Ice, the Globetrotters etc.  I know she knows the building and how to move about there.

But anytime she’s gone, it’s been with me.  I’ve taken her friends from time to time, but I’ve always been there.  Until today.  A milestone is reached.

I know she will have a good time.  I know she knows how to behave.  I know she knows how to enjoy a game.

In a twist of fate, I had the opportunity to buy tickets to the game from a friend, and take 9.0 with me to the game, and be there.  I decided though it was time for 11.5 (and for me) to reach this milestone-so I declined the tickets and here I sit with the surround sound on, ready for some hockey.

I’m pretty sure I’ll keep an eye on crowd shots, and shoot some texts out during the game.

Let’s Go Islanders, and Let’s Go 11.5.


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The “Reminder”

What started out as a normal Wednesday somehow went awry with a single phone call-and the simple phrase, “Dad, I just want to remind you…”

On the phone was 11.0.  The call came at about 3:15 this afternoon-and the reminder was that she had her school’s winter concert for chorus and band that night.  She needed to be at the high school at 7 and the show started at 7:30.

Almost reflexively I reminded her that in order to remind someone of something you first need to tell them about it.

But after that came the on-the-spot mental logistics exercise.  I have to get her to the high school by 7.  I have to make my way out of the city and to the high school no later than 7:30-earlier if possible.  In the middle of all of that, 9.0 has Hebrew school and Girl Scouts.

After thinking it through, the timing and locations work-I can have the sitter do the transportation-Girl Scouts also meets at the high school, so it just may work.  At about 7:10 I roll up to the school and find 11.0 to say hi and take a seat.

Mission accomplished-guess it was a good thing I got that reminder, right?

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The Final Insult

Maybe I should not post this while I am upset-but I will.  And I probably should not do it as a video-but I did.

I call this the final insult, because after navigating the nation’s completely dysfunctional Medicare system for more than two years, I have written what should be my final check to close the books on the care I needed to provide for my wife in her final months.  And while I don’t begrudge anyone having to pay for it-the process is broken and no one wants to hear about it.

I spent time with the staff Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Bishop, former Assemblyman Alessio, State Senator Lavalle and county legislator (now my Assemblyman) Losquadro.  While their offices were mildly helpful in helping push my case-none of them was or is willing to look at the bigger issue: the system is broken and does not work.

While I had a wife dying in hospice and two children at home what was my focus? A five-year look back into my finances which included massive document acquisition and shipping.  All for someone who has spent a lifetime working and paying taxes.

Just to add some context-when someone goes through something like I did, there is a legal process called spousal refusal. In reality it’s kind of the practice of elder law-where the assets you’ve spent a lifetime trying to amass and leave to  your children are protected.  As a means to prevent fraud-the social safety net that is Medicare has become something more akin to a painful process to tap into-where there are plenty of folks who push the blame down the line to the one person (in New York this is the county caseworker) who has contact with the person applying.

There is nothing compassionate about trying to leverage the social safety net and frankly instead of being able to focus on the pieces that required attention, I was chasing documents and meeting always arbitrary and usually impossible deadlines.  How many of you can put your hands on 5 years of bank statements, 5 years of investment records, 10 years of tax returns? There was one request for records from the savings accounts I have for the girls-because tooth fairy money is part of the accounting scheme.

So now I can say-screw you.

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Golden Find With A Bunch Of Stuff

For probably the first time-certainly the first time I can recall in the eight years we are in this house, I spent a few hours today cleaning out the garage.  Now, generally, the garage for us has been a place to put bicycles, garbage pails and I put some shelves up for storage of some pantry type items.

After that, for eight years, it’s kind of been the place where things go to never be seen again-kind of an abyss for half-finished paint cans, quarter left rolls of duct-tape, half full bottles of washer fluid etc.

But today, I struck gold.  Or at least a find that probably saved me a couple of hundred dollars.

The window shade in 9.0’s room has been broken for a while now.  It was basically down, and would never go up.  I’ve delayed dealing with it because it would be the start of a project-which would lead to wholesale changes for all of the windows, and frankly, I just don’t feel like taking that on.

But there, tucked away in a corner of the garage, next to a box of flooring tiles (because that would be really useful) were two extra window shades.

Now the part I truly don’t understand.  When we moved in, the window covers were custom cut and installed.  I have no recollection of extras coming in-much less two of them.  Nor do I remember tucking them away in the garage.  Yet there they were.

And now, 9.0 has some sunlight in her room.

Dictionary win/win here.  She has the new window, I’ve saved a few hundred dollars (not to mention the tediousness of window cover shopping).  Probably should clean the garage more than every eight years I guess.

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