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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Promise, Passion and a Bat Mitzvah

temple selfieWell, we did it.  13.0 not only celebrated her birthday over the weekend, she celebrated her bat mitzvah – and it’s truly an act of family that can pull off the entire event from Friday night services at temple, through the Saturday morning service and the party.  For me, the passion driving me to make this happen is the promise I made to Risa to get her children through this milestone in life.  So, this bat mitzvah was about passion and a promise.

As I mentioned here earlier this week, I stalled as long as possible putting together the montage that would be shown at the party – avoiding that walk down memory lane.  I equally avoided writing the speech because of the raw emotion that bring up within me.  In fact, I didn’t write the speech until I took the girls for mani/pedis on Friday afternoon.

In that speech, I spoke to 13.0 about finding things in life that she is passionate about.

Be passionate about what you want to do.

 

It may be softball, or art, or reading or writing – or something you have not even experienced yet. I can tell you when you are passionate about a goal, achieving it becomes easier and more enjoyable.

 

And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one passion. Pick your head up from the screen long enough to see the beauty of the world around you – and look into the eyes of the people here today, and know each of them wants you to succeed.

And with that – 13.0 and I stepped to the center of the temple and I took the selfie which is the picture – to remind her of the friends and family she can count on.

Just as I relied on my friends and family to achieve this wish Risa had for her children, and fulfill the promise I made with as much passion as I could muster – I hope that 13.0 will carry that passion beyond her bat mitzvah to all of the things she tries.

A weekend about a bat mitzvah, passion and promise – and all of it well done.

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Just One Family

Just One FamilyI have a friend who tells me all the time that people come and go in your life, but you have just one family.  And so its with that thought I embark on another moment in life.

The motto from my friend is about his family and friend situation – but applies to my current situation.

My brother hit a bit of a rough patch – and I honestly did not know the depths of the issues until this summer.  So, with the wheels coming off, I opened my house – and now have my brother living here with the girls and me.

In talking to the girls about it, this is about doing what we can to help the people we care about.  It’s not unlike when I asked our full-time sitter to move in two years ago when she hit a rough patch and was going through a divorce in a place she had no contacts.

But this is different.  Its family.  And there are deeper issues to be sure.  And I know I can’t solve those – nor can I solve the underlying issue of employment for my brother.  But I also know I can’t do nothing.

So, its into another chapter of learning, trying and realizing my friend is right.  People come in and out of your life all the time, but we have just one family.

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8765 Times 3 Plus The Circle of Life

Risa on her wedding day with her sister and mother

Risa on her wedding day with her sister and mother

There are 8765 hours in a year.  In the three years I’ve been widowed, 26,297 hours have ticked off.  Recent events though have made me realize, my life isn’t so bad.  Yes, its challenging at times but as the girls and I mark our third year without Risa and the passing of her mother (their grandma) at 8765 times three plus the circle of life we’re doing OK.

Maybe it’s the time of year that all of this occurs in – the holiday season filled with symbols that make the images of 2010 so vivid.  There was Thanksgiving at our home, a very quiet day with the girls.  We hosted Thanksgiving dinner again.  It’s become an impotent part of our time together.  We know where we are.

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Back then I got the call that Risa was starting to decline.  This year the call was different but the message was not.  A member of the family was approaching the end.  This time it was Risa’s mom Grandma Eddy.  As events unfolded I wrestled with how and when to tell the girls, the message similar to the one delivered years ago.

There we were at our temple’s Chanukah fair, where we were the day after Risa passed away.  This year, instead of talking to the rabbi about Risa, the discussion was Risa’s mom.

The irony of the moment was not lost on me.  Somehow, it seemed to make sense to keep things as normal as I could of the girls.  Let them go through their day, be with their friends and celebrate the holidays.  The moments that we remember.

There are 8765 hours in the year.  8765 times 3 plus the circle of life this year.  It’s a moment we’ll share (again), but it’s also a reminder that all in all our lives are not so bad.

Risa and Grandma Eddy are gone, but not forgotten.  We carry their memories each day.  They are part of us 8765 hours a year – hopefully for many years to come.

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Family Reunion and No Regrets

No RegretsAs the first phase of my summer winds down, the part where the girls are away at camp, I can look back and say it hasn’t been too bad.  The family reunion is Sunday and I have no regrets.

Did I get to do everything I wanted to do? No.

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But that’s OK.  I did a lot of things I wanted to do.  I got a lot of stuff around the house done.  I can stand in front of the mirror and say so far my summer has been OK.

Yes, there was more I wanted to get done.  But sometimes things don’t go exactly according to plan.  This is not the first time that has happened to me, and it certainly won’t be the last.  No regrets.  Summer 2013 is not over and once the girls are home we’ll be able to keep enjoying all that the summer has to offer.

I think it’s easy to look back and wish you could have done more.  Maybe it’s human nature.  As I get ready for our family reunion, I look back and can say the summer has been pretty good. No regrets on what I’ve been able to do and no regrets on the plans that got washed away, canceled or changed at the last minute.

I talked to the girls every week and read their letters with pride, knowing they were having a fun time.  I can look at the pictures on my iPhone and know I had a good time-so bring it on…

Summer 2013 Phase 2.  I have no regrets as phase 1 ends.

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Only the Year Ends-Time Marches On

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As the days in 2012 wind down, and thoughts turn to the new year-its not uncommon to sit back and reflect on the 12 months that have preceded today.  Its natural at this time of year to be reflective of the time that has gone by and maybe a little apprehensive of the year ahead.

But in the end, the calendar is another way we simply mark time and meter of moments in which we live.  Within the context of the year there are anniversaries, milestones and events that each carry their own markers on the calendar and mini-calendars within the events.

In talking to 10.0 when she thinks about the year that is ending-she looks back at camp, a trip to Six Flags with her friend, skiing and a day at a nearby archery range.

When I asked 12.5 the same question, she immediately thought about the kids being killed at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.  Then digressed to a camp trip to Six Flags and the days after Super Storm Sandy when we hosted friends and neighbors who were left without power.

In looking ahead to 2013, 10.0 is not sure what to expect.  12.5 is predicting a long battle over gun control (related to Sandy Hook) and her bat mitzvah.

Along with being proud of her awareness of current events, that feels about right.  12.5 has some stuff that she is working on now that will unfold in the year ahead.  10.0 not quite yet.

But the year ahead will mark those moments and more. There will be birthdays, the bat mitzvah, another camp send-off, another year of changes that will adjust too and hopefully another year to grow together (and separately) as a family and as individuals.

So while the girls will be awake at midnight and try to wake me up (it happens every year), the changing of the calendar is just another milestone along the way that we will share.  Happy New Year to all.

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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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The Weight of a Promise

In my odyssey of being a single parent, I’ve met many people who are also single parents.  While that distinction unifies us, there are many differences in how we earned the badge.  Those differences I’ve realized help shape our day-to-day even more than we realize (at least for me its more than I realize).

Among the ranks of the widowed (like me) there are distinctions.  I have a friend whose husband died suddenly on a treadmill at the gym.  She has a young daughter at home who barely remembers her father.  My friend’s outlook on things is very different from mine, who has two (older) girls but withstood watching my wife suffer a long and courageous battle with cancer.

Even on the divorced side there are many differences.  One friend who is separated has her daughter full-time and never sees or hears from her ex any longer.  Another friend just completed his divorce after a long period of sharing his house with his ex-wife.  They have joint custody, and she lives up the road from him.  There are others who have a contentious relationship with the ex (and that’s probably why they are divorced) and shared custody.  Even within that last group is a the differences is rules for which days the children are where.

That being said, in my case we were able to do some planning before the end. A lot of those plans centered on the family we decided to start after learning Risa had a brain tumor-knowing full well at some point it was more than likely I would be a single parent.  From Bat-Mitzvahs to lifestyle to setting expectations concepts were discussed and in some cases agreed to-and I made some promises real and implied.

In the implied list is a promise that I would be here for my girls when they need me.  I don’t think that’s unique to me as a parent, but its a weighty promise.  Of late though I wonder (and I’ve been prompted to think about this some as well) if I am taking my promise too literally and feeling my guilt to hard.

I can look anyone in the eye and tell them I am here for my girls, there is no hesitation and very little second guessing.  Until I have time to sit and think about it.  Are the school struggles because I am not there at homework time? Is the social challenge because I’m not pushing hard enough? Do my girls think they can come to me for everything even though I spend a lot of time on the phone?  Will they think I don’t want to be with them if I take time for myself?

I know when I made the promises I told Risa not to worry I would handle it.  And I am pretty sure I have.  But could I do it better?

We all make promises to ourselves and our partners about our kids.  There is nothing unique about that.  We all want the best for our kids.  Nothing unique there either.  It’s the single parent though who has to take it on and balance it though.

Yeah, the therapist will earn her keep this week.

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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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Looking For Problems Where They May Not Exist

In my never-ending quest to over-think as much as I can, the puzzle I am working on lately involves 9.5 and one of her best friends.  The friend is the youngest child in a nice family that live here in town.  The girls have been in the same class several times and have gotten very close over the years.

Now the problem.  9.5 goes to her friend’s house often, sometimes many times per week.  The friend almost never leaves the house. The few times she’s been here or at a mutual friend’s house she seems uncomfortable.  When she’s in her house she’s a very personable nine-and-change girl.

So the conundrum.  My younger daughter loves the sleep over, and her friend’s house is a welcome abode to her.  The family is great, very solid people.

But still, I can’t help but think there is something more than a little amiss here.

Here is the problem.  By and large I urge the girls to choose their friends and try to stay out of how they manage their relationships with their friends.  (There are a few who will attest to the poor job I do managing my own relationships).  So, while I want to encourage 9.5 to spend time with her friends, I am growing increasingly uneasy with the amount of time she is spending with this one particular friend.

Now for the over-thinking.  I am looking for the near perfect solution to this-assuming 9.5’s friend is not going to change.  I need 9.5 to want to move her from the almost every weekend group of friends to the I’ll call sometimes group.  But it’s a delicate line, and I am not sure how to walk it.

Anyone have any insights they want to share here? As of now, I don’t have a great plan but would love to figure one out.

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