Deja Vu All Over Again

deja vu all over againYogi probably had it right when he coined the phrase, “It’s deja vu all over again.”  While the Yankee great was talking about watching teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit back-to-back home runs, the reality is there are moments that repeat.

A plate of homemade curry chicken, and a long conversation with a friend made me realize reliving some moments is not such a bad thing.

Back in simpler times, when Risa and I were living together, she would occasionally feel inspired and make an Indian style chick pea dish called Chana Masala with roasted turmeric and curry powder. Over the years I’ve tried to replicate it without complete success.  Sometimes it comes out better than other times, but never quite the way I remember the dish when Risa made it.

And maybe those memories are crowded out, and just too deep to reach.

The conversation with a friend really wasn’t about grief and grieving – but it was discussed.  The recent memories are the easy ones to recall.  The months of hospice care, the years of chemo and doctors visits are the last memories, and the first to come to mind.  But there was a simpler time…

Before we were married, before the tumor, before the doctors when there was time to share passions and experiences.  The chick pea curry was one of them.

Thursday night I needed a quick dinner.  12.0 and I were going to a hockey game, she had a bat mitzvah prep session.  14.5 was staying after school for the drama club and then had homework to do.  I had chicken out and thawed with no real plan as to what to do with it.

I was looking through the kitchen for inspiration and found the Indian spices that had settled in the back of the closet. Chicken curry could work for dinner.

Indian cooking wasn’t (and isn’t) my thing, but I figured why not.  So I tossed in some onions, some pineapple juice, a little almond milk, cinnamon, turmeric, curry and masala popped the cast iron pan into the oven and 20 minutes later it was dinner.

I didn’t even realize it at the time – but the flavor profile brought me back.  There was something familiar about it.  Friday afternoon when I ate the leftovers for lunch I realized what it was.

Deja vu all over again.  I was back in our tiny apartment upstairs from our landlord with chick peas on the stove.

The times were simpler, the memories are real – and they’re still there.  Yeah, the LIRR ran so close to our apartment the house shook when an express whizzed by.  And I was constantly doing battle with the village over its byzantine parking regulations.  But those were the big problems then – which seem trivial compared to what was just ahead.

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Dad’s Night Off

Dad's Night OffThis year’s holiday break from school is one of those never-ending ones – two full weeks off.  That’s a lot of time home – so given the chance I called for a dad’s night off.

Dad’s night off came when 12.0 (and as it turned out two friends) decided to make dinner.  Shrimp quesadillas were on the menu.  What could go wrong?

The recipe came from the girls’ Home and Careers class (think Home Ec if you’re over 40).  The night was chosen so I’d have a chance to do the shopping – and since I go to the store once a week, 12.0 needed to give me the ingredient list:

  1. onions
  2. green onions
  3. garlic
  4. cheddar cheese (not shredded)
  5. tortillas
  6. shrimp
  7. tomatoes

For years – even before Risa passed I did the shopping and most of the cooking.  While I could live without the shopping – I enjoy the cooking, and generally I am pretty good.  The nice thing is my girls have great pallets, so I can make (or try to make) just about anything.  So this night would be special because for a change, dinner was not on my “to do” list, and 14.5 and I would have a chance to enjoy the fruits of 12.0’s labors.

Even though it was dad’s night off, there was still some advisory work to be done – helping the girls chop onions, slice scallion and pan fry the shrimp.  Along the way I tried to teach them some kitchen basics about knife skills, how to mince garlic safely and how to plan their meal.

So, it wasn’t a true night off – but there were moments that made the little bit of work seem worth it.  12.0 and her friend made shrimp for the very first time.  They were amazed at the way they turned pink – cooking from the inside out.  I did buy already de-veined shrimp so I was able to skip teaching them how to clean the poop shoot.

And there was a discernible look of satisfaction on the faces of all three girls as we sat down, and dug into their creations.  It was tangible evidence that they are growing up.  Able to fish – as opposed to just having fish for a meal.  They own the recipe, and now the skills – one more step on the way to young lady status.

After a great meal – one I did not have to cook, I completed the role reversal with 12.0 and did her chores.  So I did the dishes and cleaned the table tops (14.5 had floors and garbage to contend with).  A chance to relax, share an experience and enjoy a meal someone else cooked – I’ll take it for dad’s night off.

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Movie Review: The Interview

The InterviewChristmas Day – for the girls and me is usually Chinese and movies.  It’s a cliché I wrote about last year.  This year didn’t follow the whole script – but we did end the day in a theatre – so you get an exclusive Dad the Single Guy movie review of The Interview.

First, the Christmas script changed somewhat this year.  The changes started with a long-standing stain on the kitchen ceiling that while I was making latkes for Chanukah I decided I could not live with anymore.  So I took on a paining project in the kitchen – which was a two-day undertaking.

With the kitchen painted, new lights hung – and the three of us starving instead of the usual Chinese buffet we headed out for a friend’s house and some home-made lasagna (and I’ll admit it good scotch and just relaxing some).

But the movie was still on tap – and my girls were all about seeing The Interview because of all the controversy with Sony over the film.  So, the 930 viewing is the one we settled in for.

So the movie – and I have to admit, I actually wanted to see this movie before all the terror threats and pulling it out of theaters.  For anyone who knows me, its rare that I want to see a movie – and the upside is it did not fail to deliver.

The Interview is a funny movie.  The plot line is completely unrealistic.  The “cinema” is cut-rate at best.  The special effects are far from believable – but put together the movie is just funny, and that’s OK.

You kind of wonder why (if its true) Kim Jong Un would actually even care – much less beat his chest and make threats.

I was in the theatre with a 14.5 year old and a 12-year-old, and there were some moments I could have lived without them experiencing – but they were few and far between.  There is also some gratuitous (in every sense of the word) violence, which doesn’t even further the plot (such as it is).

But if you’re looking to kick back, laugh out loud and just escape for 90 minutes – it’s well worth the investment, and if true, the great leader of North Korea is upset about it.  Movie review of The Interview – go see it, why not?

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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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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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The Pizza Blog

pizzaA not so hidden fact about myself is that I love pizza.  While I don’t go out-of-the-way to try every pizza place I can, given the opportunity, I’ll try a new pizza place over just about every other type of food.  The girls and I visited one of the better pizza places I’ve discovered this way recently, and 13.5 suggested the pizza blog.

We were out and about on New Year’s Day and reached about three in the afternoon and none of us had eaten lunch.  I played hockey early.  13.5 woke up late and 11.0 spent the morning with a friend.


After a brief family caucus we actually set out for tacos, but the place was closed.  That’s when I realized we were right across the street from one of the better pizza places I’ve ever visited.  So I suggested pizza.

The girls were pretty happy and 11.0 asked me how I knew about the place.

So I told her.  Back in my second go round with Cablevision, this place was not far from my office.  Some nights I would stop there and grab a slice or two before heading across two bridges to get home.  I tried the place one night out of my zeal to eat from every pizza place I pass.  I kept going back because the place was that good.

So, on the first day of 2014 I returned.  The place did not disappoint.

I am a plain pizza guy.  Sometimes Sicilian, usually triangle and rarely with anything on it.  The sauce has to be rich and tangy.  The bottom crisp enough to support the cheese and the crust with just a little crunch.

While eating, 13.5 thought I should create a pizza blog and share my pizza experiences.  Of course, there are times I have enough problems keeping this blog updated, I could not imagine keeping another one.

However, if you need a pizza recommendation, let me know.  I keep the places cataloged in my mind.

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Learning To Hold The Line

Chores are done todayIn our house allowance is not just doled out on a weekly basis.  It’s both earned and functional. Earned through doing chores and functional because during the school year allowance comes on Monday morning and if you want to buy school lunch, see your allowance.  Then came tonight, 13.0 announced she was meeting some friends for dinner at Friendly’s and I was funding it.  Where I need a lesson in learning to hold the line? I reached into my wallet and gave her money.


Before I over analyze this one moment, there are many areas I do hold the line that are far more important to me than a couple of bucks spent at Friendly’s.  At the same time though, I gave both girls allowance plus extra money when they went to camp-which was for the summer.  And they did not have to do any chores all summer long for that money.

The goal is not to be a hard ass about what amounts to less than $1500 per year between the girls.  It’s really more about instilling a sense of value in the girls.  I go to work everyday and earn money.  They can do some work and earn some money too.  Kind of the quid-pro-quo of life, right?

But, like most things, it’s just not black and white.  There is the social part to it and the lessons that the girls need about being independent and being able to do things like go to dinner with their friends.

So, yeah.  I’m still learning to hold the line, but at the same time I’m learning to manage the age gap between them and encourage other healthy behaviors (even when eating at Friendly’s).  Never to old to learn a new lesson, right?

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Older and Wiser Or Just Plain Older?

Older and WiserI recently had a chance to reconnect with some friends from my high school years.  This was not the first time we’ve gathered up, in fact one of the few upsides of Facebook is that you can reconnect with old parts of your life, and its a pleasure.  But as each of the 12 people around the table took out their phones to show off pictures of their kids I had to wonder if we’ve collectively gotten older and wiser or just plain older?

The reality is, I really do not know the answer.


When did I reach this point?

It’s not that I am not proud of my kids.  I am.  It’s not that I don’t want to show off my kids.  I do.  But the image of 12 mid-to-late 40 somethings sitting around a table exchanging phones was a deja vu moment-I can almost envision my mother (or even grandmother) pulling pictures out of their purse to show to their friends.

I’ve become a parent.

Now, I’ve been a parent for 13 years.  But now I’ve joined the club.  And somewhere the answer lies, older and wiser or just plain older?  The good news is I have a few more years to think about that.

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Flexible Plans or Just Indulgent

It seemed like a really good idea as I walked in the door after getting 10.0 off the school bus this afternoon.  Because of the storm, its aftermath and life the girls and I had not gone out to dinner just the three of us in a while.  So, since I was home tonight, why not? And I figured we’d try a relatively new hibachi place near our house (or at least one we had not tried yet).

Not unpredictably, 10.0’s initial reaction was, “No.”  That happens a lot, so I don’t take it too personally.

Then the phone rang, and it was a friend of 12.5’s.  In realtime, she was asking her friend to join us as she was asking me if it was alright.  “Sure,” I said.  Why not? I thought.  Hibachi is fun with a bunch of people.

Now that 12.5 was taking a friend, 10.0 needed one for the evening as well.  So with a quick series of call, her friend was in as well.  And so, dinner for three was now dinner for five.

Not exactly what I had in mind when I blurted out my plan, but that’s OK.  It was time together with friends, and at the end of the day that’s not such a bad thing. Right?


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Modern Day Family Time

As we finish our celebration of the Jewish new year Rosh Hashana I am struck on what makes up family time in our house.  To be sure, I do not lament what will unfold here, and unfolds regularly in our house-its just not what Rockwell had in mind when he was painting family images.

Yesterday I spent the better part of the day cooking the festive meal.  Joining the girls and me would be my mom and health club girl.  (There’s probably a blog post or two in the meeting of mom and HCG but that is for another day).  For the most part, the girls went about the day doing their own thing while I cooked.  In fact, 9.5 spent the day playing her new favorite RPG (role-playing game) Mine Craft with her friend from across the street.  12.0 spent the better part of her day watching TV shows from the late 80’s and 90’s courtesy Netflix.

At different times 9.5 becomes immersed in video games, so her current obsession with Mine Craft is not surprising.  She plays the game on the iPad, her iPod and occasionally online.  When not playing, of late she’s spent time watching videos (mostly on You Tube) of game cheats and other insights to the game.

Today, I let the girls sleep in so we spent very little time at temple for Rosh Hashana services.  Once home, 12.0 went back to Netflix.  9.5 hung in for a bit, but then quickly went back into her videos.

At least we do this all together in the living room…right?

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