Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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Six Years Later – The Snow Day

Through the magic of Facebook, I was reminded this week about some updates made in years gone by about snow days.  As near as I can tell I’ve written about them for six years.  Now six years later the snow day is a little different.

It’s been a while since I wrote here – not that there’s nothing going on.  Maybe its the opposite and too much is going on and getting to the end of the day and then writing just doesn’t happen.  Today wasn’t too different, except during this snow day – I took time to think about the changes in six years.

Flashback to when the girls were 10 and eight.  Snow days were much different.  The day was very hands on.  There was likely a trip to someone’s house (or having someone over), there was the juggle of trying to do work and keep the girls entertained and there was the sense that the day would never end.

Six years later the snow day is much different.  Today really started last night after 14.5 finished her tennis.  I dropped her at her friend’s house with a vague plan of how and when I would pick her up.  16.5 was home all day doing homework and working on prep for upcoming ACT and SAT tests.

I spent the day quietly working (I think I had eight calls and a constant email flow) and making a big pan of lasagna for the next couple of weeks.  Completely hands off to my kids for the day – other than cutting off some lasagna for dinner.

Six years later, the snow day is really another day – it would be nice if the girls were at school, but we all went about it.

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The Next Great Debate? Or A Sign of the Times?

teens-staring-at-phonesI’m not a massive fan of the humor/satire site The Onion, but an older video from their site recently made its way to my Facebook timeline – and I was thinking that could easily be me (maybe without a discussion on euthanasia of course).  The surgical attachment of devices to the hands of my teen-aged girls – is this the next great debate? Or a sign of the times?

From The Onion archive story tells the story Caitlin Teagirt a 13-year old who is reduced to simply rolling her eyes and grunting because of digital addiction.

To be fair to 15.5 and 13.5 – I am perhaps guilty too of being over connected (but that’s also how I pay the bills).  But at this point, it’s generally easier for me to communicate with my kids via text – or if I really want to capture attention Snapchat.  Shame on me for getting to this point.

At the same time, I also see technology is the equivalent of making phone calls and gathering up with my friends when I was their age.  For both girls, there is a constant flow of group texts, group Snaps and group Chats – it’s not a lack of socialization.

To me the issue is the dynamic within the house – and the rolling eyes and the ever-present mobile phones.  It’s an uphill battle and one I’m not entirely sure I want to take on – after all I’m not contemplating euthanasia and it’s not getting in the way of the important aspects of home life.

When thinking about the question of if it’s the next great debate, or just a sign of the times – I’ll fall to the latter and accept the present.

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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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January and Snow – Imagine That

StormTotalSnowFcstHere it is early on a Saturday morning.  As usual, the girls are asleep and I’ve been up for a bit.  Early Saturday is my prime time for getting things done.  Food shopping, dry cleaner and other errands generally fall to the time between 7:30 and 10 Saturday mornings.  Today, its January and snow – imagine that on a Saturday morning.

If you’re all geeked up about the weather, check out my friend and meteorologist Joe Cioffi’s weather page – it has all of the information you could ever want and presented in a usable way even to non-weather geeks like me.

I’ve decided to kind of live blog the snow storm today and all the twists and turns.

UPDATE 6:30 PM

I just realized I’m really hungry.  I did a bunch today (including the fire see?) and really have not eaten since around 11 this morning – outside sampling what I was making.  So it’s dinner time.

The pulled pork is done as are the plantains.

Took a quick peek outside, the snow is still ripping pretty good and the winds have picked up again.  The reality is, not making the trip to Brooklyn for the Islanders game is a good thing – so thanks to the NHL for preventing a mistake.  15.5 and I were just talking about all the games we saw at the Coliseum on blizzard nights – some of the best games.

The crowds were sparse (5000 tops), but loud and the home team always won which was amazing.  It made the slip and slide on the ice and snow home kind of enjoyable.  I guess those days are done and now if the LIRR is down so are the Islanders.  Such is progress I guess.

UPDATE 5:30 PM

fire placeDone with the cooking portion of this blizzard.  Made a banana bread with marshmallow icing (you work with what you have), roasted cauliflower, cauliflower burgers and a pork butt that is about to become pulled pork with plantains for dinner.

Since some things never change in my house, while cooking the smoke alarm went off, and true to form none of my kids even flinched.  It makes me feel good that nothing will ever happen.

On the upside of this snow day, the freezer has 10 cauliflower burgers in it for meals when I get hung up in an office somewhere and we’ll have a yummy pulled pork for dinner tonight – there is that.

I also have to get the fire going, once I do I’ll add a picture of that.

Otherwise, the Sick Day beers are really pretty good.

UPDATE 4:15 PM

Shoveling done – at least a path to my car.  As I was pushing through the snow drifts I wasA lot of snow wondering why I was doing all this.  Afterall, I have a Jeep and I’ll just drive over the snow at the end of the driveway.  Then I remembered.

There was a period of time when Risa was doing chemo over a weekend there was a better than 50/50 chance I’d have to get her to a hospital – either by driving her or by ambulance – so I would always have a path to the front door.  I guess old habits die hard sometimes, right?

On a brighter note, I almost forgot my purchase of a beer called Sick Day from Long Trail Brewing.  It’s pretty good.  Going to have a few of those, stoke a fire in the fireplace and work on some roasted cauliflower for the girls.

UPDATE 3:30 PM

Going to try to dig out at least a path from the front door to the car – just in case.  As I mentioned earlier, the snow drifts pretty high in the front of the house and it will take a bit to get through the piles.  It’s better now, than in case there is some kind of an emergency later tonight.  Out I go, back into the frozen tundra.

UPDATE 2:15 PM

road signWorkout done, and I feel better.  I’ve written about it in the past, I am one of those people who just feels better after working out, and I feel better during the day.  And I think I’m a better person.  I did the exercise routine I outlined at 11:15 – a nice 45 minute Tabata workout.

Even doing short intervals, working out gives me time to think, and given the “historic” designation this storm is getting – I thought back to hurricane Sandy.  So many of the issues we faced here were due to a crumbling infrastructure – that is largely the same.

Last night when 13.0 and I went out to dinner there we long lines at the gas stations.  On some of the Facebook groups there were reports of stations being out of gas.  There is only one reason for that – the lessons of Sandy and the reality that nothing is different so it’s on us to make sure our cars are filled, the generator cans (if you have one) are filled etc.

Then there is this gem of social media.  One of the variable message boards from either the Long Island Expressway or Northern State Parkway.  They are there in theory to convey important information.  How many times do you pass one that looks like the one in the picture though?  Yeah, its funny – but it’s no joke.  These are the problems that were here years ago and remain unchanged.

Enough of the soapbox.  Now back to your blizzard conditions.

UPDATE 12:15 PM

As is usually the case on the weekend, come the crack of noon both girls are up now. what-should-you-be-binge-watching-on-netflix-righ-1-22956-1374011179-42_big The usual weekend pattern has me coming home from the gym at this point, and 15.5 would be asking me for a ride to the gym (generally she does not like to be there when I am there).

Instead, I just took a banana bread out of the oven and I’m about to head downstairs to burn off some energy.

I’m looking over at the fireplace and I think after I take a shower it’s time to light that up.  I was just reading on Facebook a story about a family near our house that had a fire in their chimney last night, a solid reminder to get my chimney swept out.

At some point I’m going to put a pork shoulder in the oven for dinner tonight.  In the meantime, I’ve been watching Netflix for so long this morning it actually stopped to ask me if I wanted to continue watching.  That seems a little strange, but I guess bandwidth is bandwidth.

UPDATE 11:15 AM

6a00d83452920069e20168e5b7589e970c-800wiOne decision made – the NHL actually cancelled the Islanders’ game tonight, so 13.0 and I don’t have to venture out into the snow, and I don’t have to keep on top of the trains to make sure we don’t get stranded in Brooklyn.

In lieu of getting out and shoveling the drive way, I’ve decided sitting on the couch and binge watching Netflix is a better plan (for now).  I do have a banana bread in the oven, so there is that to look forward to I suppose.

At some point in the next hour or so, I’ll head downstairs and do this workout:

Set a timer for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off
Go through this 6x:
1. push ups
2. dips
3. alternating t-rotations
4. supermans
5. glute bridge
6. flutter kicks
rest 1 min

To be honest, this is pretty much the plan I was going to use at the gym today, so not going isn’t the worst thing.  I find I’m more motivated when I trek out and go to the gym (or head out to a trail for a run) than when I workout in the basement.  But in these trying times of Snowmagedden ’16 we all do what we have to.

UPDATE 10:15 AM

So my plans to hit the gym are scuttled.  Just found out my gym closed (shortly after maxresdefaultopening) an hour ago.  I get it – it’s not safe on the roads and it’s not safe to keep employees in place.  But it is a service industry.

So, I’ll get a little workout shoveling snow today.  At our house in snows like this, we get a HUGE snow drift against the garage door.  It should be a solid workout knocking that down.

It will also give me time to think about a trip to Brooklyn to see the Islanders later.  As of now I’m thinking no, but that’s a decision that is still six hours or so away.

Despite the snow and the behest of many TV and radio reporters (who I did not even tune in to see or hear) I ventured out for my Saturday errands.   All in all its about 50 miles round trip to get produce, meat and staples from Trader Joe’s.

(As an aside, I never knew the mileage round trip until today, that seems like a lot for food shopping, gas and dry cleaning).

A couple of observations, as the morning wore on conditions definitely got worse.  Visibility went down considerably.

I also noticed there is a part of the population who clearly believes traffic laws become optional in the snow.  It wasn’t bad enough driving around on packed snow, dodging people running red lights in limited visibility was not so easy.

Also, for the part of the population who are already afraid to drive on a clear day – you’re the ones who need to stay off the road.  I get it’s snowing, but less than 15 MPH on a four lane state highway – even in the snow is just dangerous.

Once home (it took me more than 90 minutes round trip) I discovered my BBQ actually blew over in the winds.  So back out I went to re-right the grill and make sure there was not a propane leak.

Check back throughout the day I’ll add more as things unfold.

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New Routes on the Roads Once Traveled

Dead and CompanyTwo events this weekend made me realize that you can re-travel old roads, but as time marches forward, there are new routes to take.  My Halloween weekend was spent at Madison Square Garden in New York City re-acclimating with the Grateful Dead experience.  13.0 without knowing it, headed down a road once traveled too – she too on a new route.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time since 1995 I saw more than one member of the original Grateful Dead at a show.  Dead and Company did two shows at MSG and my Facebook timeline is filled with images of the night.  Sunday night we went out for dinner before the show – back in the 80’s, even in NYC, that would mean some kind of hot dog or falafel.

In 2015 the new routes on the road once traveled to the Dead wound through a nice little tapas restaurant in Chelsea – where we encountered several other tables of folks dining before the show.  Much different from the last time I saw a show.

Before the show Sunday night started, I checked in via text with the girls and 13.0 told me she started watching a new show on Netflix – Lost.

Maybe it was the nostalgia of the weekend, but I thought back to that show, and not because I every watched it.  Instead, it’s the last show I can remember Risa watching regularly.  When the show premiered in 2004 I was communitng five days a week to the city, and my schedule was all over the place – so I could not commit to watching a weekly serialized show.  At the time, our DVR was filled with whatever shows the girls were watching then (Dora?), so I never picked up on the show.

Netflix though is the new route for the road once traveled for TV as well.  All that is old, is available for streaming and binge watching – much like the Grateful Dead experience, very different from it was so many years ago.

I’ll call these new experiences, even though they are very familiar.  Afterall, we’re on a new route too, one that started nearly five years ago – and sometimes the new routes are on the roads once traveled.

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You Just Never Know

Sometimes you just never knowOne of the things I’ve mostly accepted about the way my life goes is, you just never know.  There are times when life is good, and a seemingly random thing triggers a memory or thought and like Yogi Berra once said, its deja vu all over again.

The most recent example of life handing out some you just never know moments was this weekend.  We were busy.  Saturday was a long day of swimming, bouncing around and then yummy dinner.  Sunday we did a Octoberfest.  So there was a lot going on.  From time to time as people do today, I clicked over to see what was going on in Facebook world.

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It turns out last weekend was the bachelorette party for one of Risa’s best friends from college.  I knew she was getting married.  I even knew the wedding was coming up.

What I didn’t expect though was to take some time to look at the pictures and think about Risa, and how she would have been there.  It wasn’t a moment that dampened the weekend, but a moment that came out of nowhere.  You just never know when that moment will come.

I dropped a note to Risa’s friend to let her know, and I think she appreciated it.  She even reminded me of another of life’s moments I had forgotten about.  At our wedding, Risa did not toss the bouquet to the single women.  Instead she handed the bouquet to her friend telling her she was the next to be married.

I would guess it took a little longer than planned, but now she is getting married and I am sure Risa would be thrilled.

Bring it on.  You can’t prepare of these moments, you just never know.

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Remembering and Letting Go

CandlesOn this Yom Kippur morning (yeah, no comments about my posting on Yom Kippur OK?) it’s a chance to think about moments and people.  In this week that includes September 11, there has been a lot of that going on.  Remembering and letting go, two distinct concepts tied together.

On 9/11 as I was thinking about friends and colleagues taken that day in the terror attack I was flipping through my phone and realized their names and numbers were still in there.  In some cases email addresses were there too.  Obviously, I’m not calling or texting.

 

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I can’t remember what phone I was carrying in 2001, but I am pretty sure I had to actively put their names and numbers into at least one if not two phones since that day.  A moment to remember friends without letting them go.  Their entries in my address book really are out of sight out of mind most of the year.

Then I realized on my Facebook are two friends who passed away over the years.  Their profiles still there, not deleted.  I’m not putting messages on their walls but they are there.  Another chance to remember without letting go.  Again, mostly out of sight and out mind, not in the way.

Even in my house, there are items tucked away-out of sight and out of mind, but still there and present from time-to-time.  Remembering and letting go.  Part of life sure, but also a part of us.

So the candles we lit last night for Risa, my father, my brother, Risa’s father and all those we have lost flicker on this Yom Kippur.  We remember, let go and do not forget.

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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.

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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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My Wallet Share of Cliffs, Sequesters and Bending Over to Take It

Over the cliff we goVery intentionally, I avoid politics and political issues as best I can in writing this blog.  The big reason is because it’s a nightmare to track through my Facebook timeline on most days-forget when hot button issues like guns, abortion or finance are in the news.  I really don’t want to manage political commentary in the comments on this blog.

 

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Now that said, every now and then an issue to me transcends my stated avoidance of political commentary and forces me to share.  The complete inability of our collective (and cross party and ideology) elected body in Washington though prompts this.

Think back for a moment to the waning days of 2012.  Many were planning parties or excursions.  I was getting ready for a second knee surgery, and we were all inundated with musing of the “fiscal cliff.”  This in essence was the making of bad congressional policy of not dealing with real fiscal management in real-time and “kicking the can” down stream to a date way off in the future.  That future date for fiscal comeuppance was in January 2013.  Without a deal, bipartisan in nature, there would be dire fiscal consequence not to the top 5% wage earners in the country and not to the bottom 20% who need help.  No, the issue would be solved by the many-the folks below the 95th percentile and above the 21st.

With great fanfare, our leaders in Washington crafted a cure to big, bad fiscal cliff by simply taking a bunch of money none of us had already, but many of us worked hard for.  At stake was the very corporate STI (short-term incentive).  For many of us, we simply call it our bonus.

Often this is payable not in the year earned, but in Q1 of the following year.  Since the fiscal cliff of 2013 was solved in early January, STI earned in 2012 but paid in 2013 would be the saving grace of the financially mis-managed country we live in.  On this money we had earned but had not seen yet, withholding tax would increase and new rules were created to drop STI to the gross in the year earned.

Take this use case…say you earned $100,000 in STI (using $100k makes the math easy).   A bonus paid out in 2012 would face withholding of around 33% or $33,000 with $67,000 going to the earner to do crazy things like pay bills and buy a new car.  A lot of money, but in 2013, that 33% became 42%.  So that same $100,000 bonus now becomes $58,000 banked.

So in 2013, my net is down almost $10,000 by simply working hard. But wait, there’s still more hands trying to touch my money.  Under 2013 rules, that $100,000 also counts as part of my gross earnings, eligible for income tax.  Not the $58,000 I actually banked mind you, but the 42% the government already taxed.

There is no incentive to work hard for my bonus, after all by the time the bipartisan elected government is done, I’ll owe them money on the money I worked hard to earn….

Now enter the sequester.  So, my tax rate, already taking more money from me pays for less, because once again the people elected from both parties and all branches of government to govern-can’t.  So services face automatic cuts, people lose jobs, industry suffers-and I pay them more for that.

So, I’ll take my wallet and sequester it, before throwing it over the cliff, because I am already bent over and frankly my ankles are pretty sore….

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