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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Triggers and Reactions

problems-triggers-reactions-understanding-adI guess you never really know what will set you off and how you’ll react to it.  Triggers and reactions are probably near daily occurrences – and some are probably predictable and others can spin you around.

Some are predictable.  For me, walking by a pizza place generally means I’ll be hungry.  Walking by (as opposed to grabbing a slice) is a measure of success in managing the trigger.

Some triggers and reactions are relational.  Seeing a concert (I was at Dead and Company last weekend) usually triggers a party atmosphere where a fun time can be had.  I suppose how much fun you have is a way to measure that trigger’s impact.

Situational triggers and reactions occur as well.  No matter how tired I am when I drag into the gym I get going and the environment gets me through the hour (or so) I am there.  Although the measure could easily be the quality of the workout, I prefer to gauge the success on how I feel three hours later – if my energy or focus is better after the workout.

Other times triggers and reactions aren’t as easily defined.  The measure of success is equally ill-defined.

There are moments I can be thrown back to the morning when my father died by simply seeing an ambulance in front of a house with its doors open.  There are times I can be back on the corner my brother was hit by a car simply driving by a car accident.   Forty plus years later my reactions to these triggers are sometimes a deep breath – but rarely more than the imagery.

Other moments in time have triggers and reactions that are a bit more raw and tougher to manage and measure.  Those are the moments that will one day be a deep inhale – but today can be just about anything.

I’m not sure if measuring and managing those triggers and reactions is the best plan – but it’s what I do and sometimes it’s harder than others.

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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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Sign of the Times, Perhaps

Sign-Of-The-TimesAs I do on most Saturday’s I was up relatively early (about 630) and out early.  But today instead of doing my usual Saturday morning errands (produce, Trader Joe’s etc) I was taking 13.5 into the city for a camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah.  As I was driving through the Midtown Tunnel I was thinking back to when I was a little older than 13.5, and going into the city via the bus to Jamaica and then the subway.  Call it a sign of the times perhaps, but I’m not sure my kids will be doing that anytime too soon.

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I try not to be one to harken back to the “good old days” but I can’t help but think that way sometimes.

I can remember when I was growing up that my bicycle was freedom, and it took me all over.  To the mall, to friend’s near and far, out of the day and back when the streetlights came on.  Today, I cringe a little when the girls are out riding their bikes around the neighborhood. And it’s not that I think they’ll have a problem.  It’s that the drivers here just don’t seem too focused on the road.   Call it a sign of the times perhaps.

Back to the city – I can remember getting on the N6 bus with my friend and heading to Jamaica where we jumped an E train.  Next stop (for us) was Fifth Ave.  I take the LIRR into the city 10-12 (sometimes more) times a month.  Again, I have a tough time seeing either of my girls jumping a train and heading into the city anytime soon.

Again, it’s not that I think they couldn’t navigate the intricacies of the LIRR (the subway is more of a user experience) but rather I see the people hanging around Penn Station and I’m just not comfortable.  Call it a sign of the times perhaps.

One morning this week while waiting for the morning bus with the girls, we were joking about 13.5 walking to high school next year.  I used the line from when I was a kid that I walked to school each day, up hill both ways.  While the girls didn’t completely understand the line, the times there are a changing.  Call it a sign of the times perhaps.

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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.

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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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Twists and Turns To Get Things Done

Twists and TurnsSo last night, as Labor Day Weekend 2013 was in its final stages, we gathered up with some friends who we spent part of Memorial Day weekend with-and the list of all the things we wanted to do this summer came up.  Yeah, there’s a large list of things not done.  But through the twists and turns to get things done, there was also a bunch checked off the list.

According to the calendar, summer 2013 rolls on for another six weeks or so.  Meteorological Fall 2013 is upon us though.  So technically there is still time this summer to get some stuff done.

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But that doesn’t give credence to all that was accomplished.

Yeah, I wish I was able to get more done, and yeah-getting new furniture for 10.5’s room became new mattresses for everyone and added more than $2500 to the price tag-but twists and turns are to be expected.  Results are what is measured.

Sure, the long weekend on Block Island could have gone better-but we did make it.  Yeah, that closet still needs to be emptied out but there are new stools at the kitchen table.

Things get done, sometimes not the stuff that is on the list at the start-but you can’t knock progress.

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Camp Good Grief Again

Camp Good GriefFor the second summer the girls did a week at Camp Good Grief.  I wrote about it here last  year, so I won’t go too deep into the “what it is” and “what it’s all about.”  But in the end, Camp Good Grief again was a good thing for the girls and for me.

For those not inclined to click, Camp Good Grief is a program for kids who have lost a parent (and it gets extended to those who have lost a close relative like a sibling etc).  Out here it is run by the East End Hospice and is set in a great campground on the east end of Long Island called Peconic Dunes.

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But the take aways from the camp are meaningful for all of us and for me directly, I get a chance to kind of check-in on where the girls are at emotionally with all they have had to process and deal with.  By and large, we all get a clean bill of health once again from the therapists at the camp.

It’s an interesting program.  They break down into small-ish groups, 7-10 kids about the same age and they spend time together doing “camp” things like boating and swimming and then time in small group therapy and art therapy.

I think the biggest lesson/reminder the girls get through the entire program is that they are not all alone in this.  There are other kids like them who lost a parent.  Sometimes when I think back to being 11 or 13, all of my friends had two parent households-I can’t even place a divorce in the crowd much less the passing of a parent.

In today’s world, there is a lot more divorce, and schools run programs like Banana Splits for that.  But there really is not as much available in the school for kids in a widowed household.  Now that both of my kids are in middle school (10.5 starts in two weeks), I really don’t want the weekly or bi-weekly pull out to occur.  I want them in class and learning and getting help when they need it.

So Camp Good Grief gives me that snapshot of this moment in time.  What are they thinking, what are they saying and am I still on the right path.  The good news is that based on the feedback, we’re all doing OK.  The big takeaway though from the therapists for both girls, the groups want to talk more about the deceased parent in the home.  Now that is not an easy one for me, but I will do my best.

It’s good to have goals I suppose.  So, next summer the girls will go back for a third year.  13.0 has already said she wants to skip her first chance at being a counselor at the camp and just be a camper.  10.0 wants me to try to push after next summer to get her a counselor spot early, so she can use this for her Mitzvah project.  So, I have great kids, I’m not complaining.

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Style: Teaching Moments and Decision Making

Breaking Bad + Hunger Games As the girls’ wrap up their first week home from camp, I’ve made a bunch of realization and some things I know resonated as lessons learned, and a lot of that has to do with media consumption-go figure.  It all started when I realized 13.0 was watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.  As a huge fan of Breaking Bad, I know it carries at TV 14 rating.  She told me about a meme of Gus with half his face blown off she saw as drawing her to the show.  I wasn’t (and I’m still not) ready for her to watch Breaking Bad.  But I want it to be her decision, I just told her I thought there were better things for her to watch.  I see it as a teaching moment and helping in the decision-making process.

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Over the summer while at a movie, I saw a coming attraction for the second movie in the Hunger Games storyline, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Last March, it was a then 11.0 (now 13) who asked me to take her to Hunger Games on opening night.  This November, it will be 10.5 who wants me to take her to the sequel.  Not completely age appropriate, but it’s a teaching moment and helping in decision-making.

As a parent, I try not to censor the girls in what they watch, read or do.  I hope I have done my job and can help them make good decisions.  I don’t have to like the decisions they make, but I will support them.  So, we’ll probably see the new Hunger Games movie, and I’m pretty sure 13.0 will get back to Breaking Bad.  What’s important to me is they are thinking about what they are doing, and making good decisions.

And, as I did after The Hunger Games movie, I’ll spend time with 13.0 talking about Breaking Bad and the story lines.  After we see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I’ll spend time with 10.5 talking about the story.  That’s my job.

It’s not as much about what they decide to watch, or read.  It’s about the decisions they make getting there, and what their thoughts about it after they see it that matter to me.

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The Sounds of Summer Silence

Sounds of Summer SilenceAs summer 2013 begins, once again the girls will head off to camp.  Almost lost in the shuffle of 13.0’s Bat Mitzvah and 10.5’s graduation to middle school-the right of summer in our house is here.  Off to the buses we go tomorrow morning, and for me, the sounds of summer silence shall ring out.

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Two years ago (the first year the girls went to camp), I was starting a new job and had some home projects I was either doing or having done.  Last year was all about rehab from my first of two knee surgeries.  This year, all about enjoying the sounds of summer silence.

There are no major plans.  A long weekend on Block Island, a few smaller projects around the house that I would try to get done anyway and just trying to recharge.

My knees are feeling good, I’d like to learn how to stand up paddle board this summer.

The girls feel ready for camp.  I went with 10.5 this morning to get her some summer reading material and offered up five times to make a stop if she needed anything.  She said no, but I think she knows she just needs to get on the bus tomorrow morning.

So after spending the first three months of the year rehabbing after the second knee surgery of 2012 and second three months working on school projects and Bat Mitzvah preparations, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sounds of summer silence.

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